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.

Karishma Bagga

About Karishma Bagga

Karishma Bagga is a Product Manager for the Adobe Primetime team, where she leads the product strategy, roadmap, and priorities for the Adobe Primetime TVSDK. Karishma is a computer scientist by background and has earned patents for Adobe granted by USPTO. She worked at Akamai before joining Adobe in 2011 and has been a proud member of the Adobe Primetime team ever since. Before donning the product management hat, she led the TVSDK engineering team and has also been a key contributor to various other Primetime offerings including Adobe Media Server. She’s passionate about traveling (Paris is in first place!), and she makes sure she takes at least one trip to a new place every year.

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