The True Costs of “Free” HTML5 Video Players

What is the true cost of using a free HTML video player?

HTML5 is a front-end, cross-platform technology with a growing footprint across devices. Over half of the top 1 million websites use HTML5, according to BuiltWith. And, 66% of mobile developers use HTML5, according to VisionMobile. Plus, many consumer electronics manufacturers are including support for HTML5 in devices such as connected TVs and game consoles.

This makes HTML5 a useful technology for media and entertainment (M&E) companies that want to extend video content out to the largest number of consumers on the most possible devices.

The first step for any transition to HTML5 involves deciding which player technology to use. Can you use a free HTML5 video player? Or, do you require more robust, premium HTML5 player technology?

When making this decision, it helps to know some of the pitfalls of the free option. Here are eight of the most common pitfalls:

  1. More customization work - Browsers right now do not implement HTML5 in the same way. As a result, it takes custom work to get free HTML5 player technology working across all the different browser implementations. Adobe Primetime has already done this work for you. Its HTML5 player framework includes a smart heuristic engine that understands the capabilities of each browser and makes any adjustments needed to provide the same experience across devices. It can also fallback to leverage Flash if an HTML5 implementation can't support the intended experience.
  2. Longer time to market - When using free HTML5 player technology, the customization work mentioned above will have to be done with every new device you want to reach that comes to market supporting HTML5. Developing and testing this work will slow your time to market. In contrast, reaching new devices with Adobe Primetime's HTML5 player framework is fast and easy because the APIs are always the same. Developers work with familiar APIs and can apply an existing, automated testing framework. This speeds time to market for Adobe Primetime customers.
  3. Harder to protect content - Free HTML5 technology makes it difficult to do content protection in a uniform way across browsers because each browser supports content protection specifications like the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification to a varying degree of maturity. This introduces more custom work to get free HTML5 player technology to deliver protected content across devices. Adobe Primetime supports a multi-DRM solution, which can automatically deliver protected content with the best type of DRM protection for each device.
  4. Lack of monetization capabilities - Free player technology does not include ad insertion by default. Adobe Primetime includes ad insertion with its HTML5 player framework, which enables the seamless delivery of personalized pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads into a TV-like experience.
  5. Less stable streaming - Wired and wireless networks aren't as stable as internet users would like them to be. Connections can slow down and speed up. Free HTML5 player technology does not provide a way to optimally select the right bitrate for playback. When a viewer is on an unstable connection, the free technology may switch the bitrate up and down, again and again, until the connection stabilizes. Adobe Primetime avoids this by using an algorithm to stabilize the bitrate switching. This allows for a better user experience compared to when using free HTML5 player technology.
  6. Choppy fast forward and rewind - All too often, free HTML5 player technology provides a poor user experience for fast forwarding and rewinding video content. The viewer may see an image, then nothing, then another image, making it hard to find the right spot to return to playback. Adobe Primetime provides the opposite experience. It provides a fast forward and rewind experience that's as smooth as the playback experience.
  7. Basic captioning - Free HTML5 player technology provides very basic captioning, which may not meet the closed caption regulations in the United States. Adobe Primetime meets all the regulations by using 608 over 708 and WebVTT caption formats that allow for robust closed captioning support across devices. Further details on this are available in Adobe Primetime's "Introduction to Closed Captions" technical paper.
  8. Harder to integrate analytics and measurement - It takes custom work to get analytics and measurement working with free HTML5 player technology. In contrast, Adobe Primetime offers out-of-the-box integration with Adobe Analytics and leading measurement companies. The integration is quick, easy, and accurate.

Each of these pitfalls of free HTML5 player technology costs you time or money to solve. So, free isn't really free after all. The better path is to move quickly with robust, premium HTML5 player technology, like Adobe Primetime's HTML5 player framework. This will allow you to deploy engaging, measurable, HTML5 video experiences quickly across a large and growing number of browsers and devices. Rather than fighting against the pitfalls yourself, you can benefit from a solution that already solves for them.

Tis the Season: Marketers, Multiscreen & Monetization

This holiday season, as smart TVs, smartphones and streaming media devices fly off the shelves, it’s clear that consumers are watching their favorite TV shows where, when, and how they want. That’s a pretty nice development for TV fans. But this shift in viewing patterns offers advertisers the biggest gift of all.

As viewers transition from set top boxes to screens of all shapes and sizes, the ability to transact and measure multiscreen TV ad inventory is rapidly improving. For marketers, that means cross-platform TV campaigns are more likely to reach their intended audiences. In fact, Turner made a bold claim recently when it promised that, “by 2020 more than 50% of its inventory would be transacted against audience guarantees.”

“By leveraging data and analytics, we can make advertising more relevant for a consumer and ultimately more effective and efficient for our agency and advertising partners,” said Dan Aversano, SVP of ad innovation and programmatic solutions for Turner.

The technology that enables this new frontier of addressable TV is evolving quickly. For example, Adobe Primetime provides a TV ad planning and yield optimization platform that monetizes multiscreen TV, which is described in the video below.

With this technology, when it comes to transacting, direct sales teams still hold the key to premium ad placements. This was true for traditional linear TV and will remain true in digital.

Underscoring this point, publishers of premium video content are working to enable private, direct, audience-based media sales that are enriched by data and viewer-level measurement. Stephano Kim, EVP Digital Strategy and Operations at Turner Broadcasting told AdExchanger, "It used to be that back in the day, your content used to be a proxy for your audience. If someone viewed your content, the content was deemed relevant to those people. But now that you have so many different modalities of how your content is consumed, it’s changed everything."

As broadcasters begin to realize their vision for addressable media sales, advertisers will have unprecedented control over how they reach TV viewers across a vast array of devices and platforms. Let’s consider a few examples:

Improving multiscreen addressability

Advertisers are always looking to reach more consumers with targeted, personalized offers. Instead of using TV content as a proxy for viewers, audience-based buying provides an effective mechanism for marketers to reach their desired segments, via multiscreen campaigns. With the advent of new sell-side technologies, publishers can now leverage data to match individual viewers with specific ad slots across every screen. In turn, advertisers can match specific campaigns to these audiences and see their ad effectiveness double and even triple.

Buying audiences + content across multiple screens

Executing campaigns for specific audiences, during specific TV shows, may be the most effective way for advertisers to ensure their message resonates while viewers are immersed in their favorite shows. Historically, publishers have faced a unique set of challenges in making this hybrid inventory available. Today, however, media sellers have access to cross-platform tools to forecast ad inventory at the impression level for both audience and content criteria. This means that marketers looking to advertise to a particular audience segment, such as recent iPhone purchasers, who are watching a particular show, such as Empire, can do so without the risk of over- or under-selling.


In the past, inventory forecasting for such a scenario would yield an average accuracy of less than 50%. As a result, advertisers would achieve less reach than desired, and rely on negotiating “make goods” to recoup their investments. Now, publishers have access to features that help them recognize and forecast overlapping inventory, and marketers can expect a nearly 2X increase in on-target delivery.

Measuring with your preferred currency

Transacting with audience guarantees, as measured by Nielsen or Comscore, has surfaced a number of challenges with the growth of streaming. These challenges include:

  • Broad audience definitions. A 25-49 year old male represents a very broad set of behaviors and buying patterns.
  • Panel-based measurement. These small, representative samples are often at odds with buyers’ and sellers’ ability to measure at the impression level.
  • Data lag. Nielsen data is only available after a 48 hour delay, meaning campaigns delivered to the wrong audiences may not be remedied as quickly as desired.
Marketers are now able to buy and measure multiscreen TV inventory through an addressable, data-enriched approach. While the challenges outlined have historically limited the effectiveness of multiscreen measurement, advertisers are now able to measure campaigns like a digital video ad, applying Nielsen or comScore methodologies to their campaigns alongside a host of complementary, audience-based data sets.


Measurement flexibility is key. Turner SVP of Ad Innovation and Programmatic Solutions Dan Aversano said, “We all have to abandon this idea of a single currency. At Turner, we’ve put a stake in the ground that we are data-agnostic, meaning when we’re cutting specific audience deals, we use many different data sets: viewership, behavioral, attitudinal, psychographic and emotional data sets, and those get linked together.”

Of course, major media sellers remain focused on the user experience above all else. Joe Marchese, President, Advanced Advertising, Fox Networks Group says, "If we can move to a world where we can do guaranteed attention, fewer ads, interactive ads, immersive ads, we could raise the rate and we could move the conversation from a battle between content creators and marketers about lower, lower, lower rates and saying no it's about guaranteeing proper human attention, the right audience, someone who's actually in market for goods and services, and a great experience overall."

Adobe Predicts Accelerated TVE Growth on 5th Anniversary of Primetime Authentication

This year, Adobe’s TV Everywhere solution celebrates its 5th anniversary, and we’re proud of everything we’ve worked with customers and partners to accomplish. Over the last five years, Adobe Primetime authentication has enabled 580 MVPDs to grant pay-TV customers online access to television and film content for 138 TV channels, across all the most popular connected devices. During that time, active TVE users have grown to represent over 20 percent of all pay-TV households. And, with plans underway to drive continued growth, TVE is poised to reach 70 percent of all pay-TV households by 2018.

Netflix serves as a valuable barometer for the success of TVE. The industry leader has proven that 47 million U.S. households will not only watch TV over the internet on a regular basis, but they will pay to do so. Because TV Everywhere comes included in pay-TV subscriptions, it’s realistic to believe that adoption will reach 70+ million pay-TV households through increased awareness and continued improvements to the user experience.

The Future of TV Everywhere
View the full infographic: Past, Present and Future of TVE

Over the next 2 years, the Adobe Primetime team will be working closely with customers and partners to help realize the enormous growth potential of TV Everywhere. Our initiative to reduce sign-in friction will be a critical component to this growth. Cumbersome sign-in requirements have been an impediment to consumer adoption of TV Everywhere since its inception. When consumers are frequently asked for a username and password, they often give up and go elsewhere. The following developments will help minimize this friction:

  1. Single sign-on from Apple devices
    Consumers need a way to navigate between hundreds of TV Everywhere properties without hitting a sign-in wall on each app and site. The authentication technology that allows for this is called single sign-on. Adobe Primetime has been working with Apple since June to bring single sign-on to Apple devices, available now to consumers. TV distributors including DirecTV and Dish have already enabled single sign-on for Apple TV, and viewers can access apps from Disney and FOX to NBC and Food Network.
  2. Universal single sign-on and home-based authentication
    CTAM, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, is working with the TV industry, including Comcast and Adobe, to support “a new, universal, scalable solution” for TV Everywhere that’s facilitated by home based authentication and single sign-on. These two authentication technologies work perfectly together because home based authentication allows consumers to bypass the sign-in wall entirely if they are viewing TV Everywhere content from home and then single sign-on ensures that the authenticated access applies across all TV Everywhere sites and apps.
  3. Relaxed authentication requirements through concurrency monitoring
    By 2018, we believe that 100% of TV Everywhere sites and apps will use concurrency monitoring to limit fraudulent viewing behavior. This technology gives pay-TV operators the confidence to relax sign in requirements by ensuring the enforcement of concurrency rules, across both owned properties and federated sites and apps. By extending this level of control to operators, programmers will benefit from the ability to offer a superior user experience, with less frequent log-ins required.

These advancements in authentication technology will make tuning into TV Everywhere as easy as tuning into TV.

View the full infographic: Past, Present and Future of TVE

Join Us in London and Shape the Future of Multiscreen TV

As Adobe Primetime continues to expand globally, we’re excited to host a group of industry luminaries in London on December 7th at the “Data-driven Digital TV” event to discuss the future of multiscreen TV.

Our customers in the UK have already broken new ground with Adobe:

  • BBC used Adobe Primetime to deliver the 2012 London Games.
  • Channel 4 generates and acts on audience insights with Adobe Analytics and Adobe Campaign.
  • Channel 5 uses Adobe Primetime for My5 on iOS, Android, and desktop devices.
  • Sky is using Adobe Marketing Cloud to build out its data-driven TV monetization capabilities.

The agenda will cover four key topics:

1. Digital Media and Adobe

  • How does Adobe view the challenges of creating happy, loyal, and profitable online video customers?

2. The Digital Experience Starts before Play

  • How can you deliver a unique and coherent digital experience across all devices?
  • How can you understand your audience and deliver intelligent personalization?
  • What to do with all that data and how to gain and act upon more intelligent insights?

3. The Digital TV Advertising Paradigm Shift

  • What to do with all that inventory?
  • How can you accurately forecast online video ad inventory?
  • How can you measure in an effective and consistent way?

4. Technical Implications

  • How can you move towards the next generation data-driven digital TV platform step by step?
  • How do you capture and use customer insights?

Register here to join us in London.

Sharing OTT Terms and Trends on the Marketing Land Live Podcast

What is OTT, MVPD, TVE, DMP, and DAI? And what are the related trends?

On episode 35 of the Marketing Land Live podcast, Adobe’s Campbell Foster and Tru Optik’s Andre Swanston share their OTT expertise with host Barry Levine.

Here are a few select excerpts from the conversation:

  • On dynamic ad insertion (DAI), Foster says, “MVPDs can use our dynamic ad insertion capabilities to replace or supplement broadcast ads. For example, during a hockey game... the viewer at home watching it on TV would see an ad for Coca Cola, but, let’s say, Budweiser is also advertising and they want to target males between the ages of 21 and 25 who live in California and make over $50,000 a year, [the broadcaster] could replace the Coca-Cola ad with the Budweiser ad, if they want to, if that’s how they sold it, if that’s what was agreed with the advertiser. That’s an example of dynamic ad insertion capabilities.”
  • On data management, Swanston says, “A lot of the media companies are becoming very sophisticated. We’re seeing that where there’s more of a struggle is with traditional publishers that don’t have registered users or straight to OTT platforms that don’t have that historical data.”
  • On OTT advertising, Foster says what’s needed is “a common currency, a common system of measurement across different publishers or across different broadcasters so that buyers understand and know what they’re getting with their media buys upfront.”
  • On analytics, Swanston says the knowledge that content providers have about their audience is getting a lot better. “For example, we know a lot of the clients that we work with also use Adobe Analytics. So now they have a better idea of how popular their content is, or what time it’s most consumed, or across what devices it seems to resonate the most with. And we’re able to do things to create look-alikes with those audiences to drive tune in and new subscriber acquisition campaigns. So, I think it’s definitely getting better. Quarter by quarter you can see the difference in capabilities.”
  • On media buying, Foster says, “I think that we’re moving toward a world where it’s just a lot easier to buy video advertising across devices. At the end of the day, the advertiser doesn’t care whether it’s a Roku or an Apple TV or an Android device. They just want to get the message to the right person at the right time. So having to worry about which device the ad is going to deliver on is just a headache for everybody. So I do think we’re moving to a world where there’s a lot less friction in the process for buying and distributing advertising.”
  • On OTT, Swanston says, “We truly believe by Q1 2019 people aren’t even going to call it OTT or streaming television. It’s just going to be TV.”

Listen to the conversation in full here:

Read more about the topics discussed at Marketing Land.

CTAM Recognizes Horia Galatanu for Driving a Seamless and Simple TVE Experience

On November 3rd in NYC, CTAM honored 10 industry trailblazers with a CTAM TAMI Award. The award recognizes exceptional leadership in CTAM business projects that benefit both the membership and the industry.

Among the recipients was Horia Galatanu, Senior Product Manager for Adobe Primetime entitlement. Horia was recognized with an award for his expertise in driving a seamless and simple user experience for TV Everywhere.

Horia "The Authenticator" Galatanu

Angie Britt, SVP, Advanced Video Products for CTAM says, "Horia Galatanu should be nicknamed 'The Authenticator.' A key influencer in the recent CTAM/OATC announcement about Home Based Authentication and Single Sign On alignment, Horia’s contributions and commitment to CTAM and to the industry are unmatched. Please join me in congratulating Horia for his exceptional contributions."

As a regular contributor to the Adobe Primetime blog, you can follow his expertise here. Some relevant contributions include his four-part series of growing TVE adoption and his research into the pain points users have in iOS apps with respect to ads, performance, usability, and login.

If you haven't read these articles yet, put them on your reading list:

The Adobe Primetime team thanks CTAM for this recognition and also congratulates the other CTAM TAMI award recipients. We look forward to continuing the trailblazing!

Adobe Primetime Wins in Advertising, OTT, and DRM

Adobe Primetime was recognized for its market leadership in advertising, OTT, and DRM with three awards last week.

At the fourth annual Cynopsis Digital Model D Awards, Adobe Primetime earned the award for Best Digital Video Ad Platform. This year’s program was very competitive and so to win is a major accomplishment. Brandon Lane, Sr. Account Executive, Primetime accepted the award at the lunch gala. 

Best Digital Video Ad Platform

In the 2016 Streaming Media Readers’ Choice Awards, Adobe Primetime won in two categories. It won in the OTT Platform for MSO and MVPD category and in the DRM/Access Control Service Provider category. These awards were based on the opinions of over 3,000 StreamingMedia.com readers. We’re honored to have earned these top spots.

Discussing OTT as an Experience Business on Zuora’s Subscribed Podcast

We’re entering a new era in our industry that’s all about creating an exceptional customer experience at every touch point.

This trend is particularly relevant to over-the-top streaming video providers. Their initial focus may have been simply on delivering video across screens. Now, it's about using data, insights, and personalization technologies to deliver an exceptional and relevant experience across screens that attracts and retains viewers.

Recently, I discussed this trend with Tom Krackeler and Rachel English on the Subscribed podcast, which is dedicated to exploring the global shift toward subscriptions and recurring revenue business models. The podcast is sponsored by Zuora, where Tom is VP of Products and Rachel is Director of Customer Success.

Tune in to the podcast for expert insights into running an OTT service as an experience business:

Listen for key insights in the following areas:

  • Delivery - The entry point for OTT services is delivering video across screens.
  • Usability - Audiences are one click, tap, or press on the remote away from something else. So, OTT services have to be really easy to sign into and access. And, it has to be really easy to find and discover things to watch.
  • Acquisition - The trick to acquisition is being relevant to your audience, having really great content and an incredible digital experience.
  • Retention - You have to know how to engage your audience after they become subscribers.
  • Business models - There are three main business models in OTT. These are pay as you go, subscription, and ad supported business models. There's also a hybrid model, which combines these within one service.
  • Analytics - One exciting application of analytics is to look at the engagement signals that lead casual viewers to subscribe and then reach more people with those signals.
  • Data - Data is making the OTT experience more personal and relevant at every level. It's enhancing video delivery, acquisition marketing, and retention marketing.
And, read select excerpts from the podcast here.

White Paper Download: Premium Video Content Protection Strategies with CMAF

To date, streaming video providers providers have had to support two container formats in order reach many device types, including Android and iOS devices, with protected video content.

In June, a new development being worked on by Apple, Adobe, and many others in MPEG (the Moving Picture Experts Group) is bringing streaming video providers one step closer to a single streaming format with DRM. The development is a container format called Common Media Application Format (CMAF).

CMAF allows streaming video providers to move from supporting two container formats, fragmented MP4 (fMP4) and transport stream (TS), to supporting one container format, CMAF. This drives big savings in storage and delivery costs.

Layers of modern HTTP streaming

A new white paper from our team educates streaming video providers about this new format. Readers will learn about:

  • What is required when streaming video providers use CMAF.
  • The nuances of Apple’s support for the new container format.
  • A lingering obstacle to having a single streaming format with DRM, which is that of multiple encryption modes.

Overall, CMAF is taking the streaming industry in the right direction and deserves close attention going forward. Download the “Premium Video Content Protection Strategies with Common Media Application Format” white paper today.

HTTP/2 Provides a Path to Delay-Free Live Streaming

Live streaming without a delay

One challenge facing media companies today is that live streaming isn’t actually live. It’s delayed by a few seconds or more. This is especially problematic when live broadcast viewers engage on social media with online viewers who are seconds behind in their viewing because the broadcast viewers can spoil the show for the online viewers.

In recent news, Twitter’s first NFL Thursday Night Football live stream ran on a 30-second delay. CNN reported that it was met with largely rave reviews. But the negative reviews were all about the delay. For example, here’s what Oriana Schwindt, TV News Editor at Variety, had to say about the stream:

One future solution to this challenge will be to leverage HTTP/2 in order to make live streaming work without a delay. In a technical presentation at IBC last month, I covered how to achieve this with a system for live streaming that compares well with broadcast.

Here’s the emerging best practices from that talk:

  • Minimize Video Segment Size — The size, in seconds, of a video segment dictates the minimum live delay in a system because it represents the amount of time that an encoder/packager needs to accumulate the segment. Live delay can be reduced by making the segment as small as possible, although the mechanics of congestion control over TCP puts a floor on how small we can make the segments and still keep the TCP channel full. A segment size of 2 seconds to 4 seconds provides a good balance of low delay and efficient use of the channel.
  • Use HTTP/2 Server Push — One downside of making segments really small is that the total number of network transactions goes up by an equivalent amount. HTTP/2’s server push counteracts this by pushing multiple segments in a single network transaction. It also allows for smaller segments than what would otherwise be possible due to the TCP slow start/congestion control issues mentioned above, by effectively creating large “virtual” segments.
  • Optimize Your Video Client for Low Latency — HTTP/2 helps the network deliver content with low delay, but you need a video player that operates with low delay as well. The player needs to carefully manage its playback buffer, and take action (skip frames, etc.) if it is falling behind. We are currently working to ensure that the Adobe Primetime TVSDK has a really low live delay.

These best practices will become relevant when both your content delivery network (CDN) and your video client endpoints support HTTP/2. So, ask your CDN about HTTP/2. And, for more details about the best practices listed above, download this zip file containing all the white papers from the IBC session, “Advanced Developments in Dynamic Video Streaming.” Then, read the paper in that batch titled, “Improving Live Performance in HTTP Adaptive Streaming Systems.