Thursday, September 9, 2010, 8:02 AM ET|Adobe is releasing Flash Media Server 4 today and an important new addition to the lineup is the Flash Media Enterprise Server, with specific features targeted to the enterprise customer segment.
These features include peer-assisted delivery using Flash's Real Time Media Flow protocol and IP multicast, the first time these have been offered. Both are meant to reduce enterprises' bandwidth expense and they can work in tandem with each other through what Adobe calls "Multicast Fusion." For the peer-assist feature, FMS works with the Flash Player 10.1 to help seed and distribute content. The enterprise focus reflects the growing use of video outside mainstream media business. Pricing wasn't released and is available for quote by Adobe reps.
IP multicast is also available in the Flash Media Interactive Server. It also supports real-time interactive applications like video chat and other social media apps. And it also incorporates HTTP Dynamic Streaming, which was previously announced in May, allowing CDNs and others to leverage their HTTP infrastructure. HTTP streaming has become a key competitive area since Microsoft introduced Smooth Streaming, for adaptive bit rate streaming to Silverlight clients over HTTP. The Flash Media Interactive Server pricing stayed constant at $4,500. Pricing for the basic Flash Media Streaming Server also stays at $995.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 9:53 AM ET|Today I'm pleased to offer a guest post from Jeff Malkin, president of Encoding.com. With all the recent news around video codecs, formats and corporate battles, the world is getting increasingly complicated for content providers looking to benefit from the shift to online video. Encoding.com is in the middle of this action and today Jeff cuts through the noise and provides some recommendations for success.
How to Navigate the Video Format Battlefield
by Jeff Malkin
For content publishers and consumers, there is chaos in the video ecosystem, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. No doubt you've been reading about HTML5 vs. Flash vs. Silverlight (and recently, WebM), Apple vs. Adobe, H.264 vs. VP8, iPhone vs. Android, Do-it-Yourself vs. OVP.
Whether serving tens or thousands of videos, maximizing viewership with reasonably high-quality videos across web and mobile devices is the new imperative. With so many permutations of video codecs, formats, containers and features, it's confusing to design a video workflow that's cost-effective, flexible to change with the evolving formats and scalable to meet your growth requirements. With this post, I offer a couple of recommendations to help simplify the array of options currently available.
Case in point: Just when it appeared that H.264 was emerging as the video codec leader, primarily because of YouTube support and strong backing by Apple on its devices, Google went and threw an open-sourced VP8 codec into the ring via the recently announced WebM project, a new video format launched by Google with support from other leading industry players such as Mozilla, Opera Software, Brightcove and Encoding.com.
While both H.264 and VP8 are good quality codecs, only VP8 is currently royalty-free and therefore has a great opportunity to emerge as the new leader within the next year or two. However, for web distribution today, we recommend encoding your videos using the H.264 video codec in an .mp4 container. This is a high-quality output format already supported by Flash, and the leading HTML5 browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer v9.
Monday, May 17, 2010, 8:50 AM ET|A heads-up that the Silverlight team has just posted 4 great case studies detailing different aspects of their international media partners' experiences delivering the 2010 Winter Olympics online. The partners are CTV (Canada), NBC (US), NRK (Norway) and France Televisions (France). All were using Microsoft's Silverlight and IIS Smooth Streaming.
The case studies dig into 4 topics: online viewing times, effective ad monetization, broadcast reach and quality experience. I've only had an opportunity to skim each of the 4 case studies, but they are packed with in-depth information and details that I have not seen before. For those interested in learning more about how a high-profile live event like this was executed and some of the key performance metrics, this is super valuable info.
Friday, April 16, 2010, 8:12 AM ET|Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 57th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for April 16, 2010.
Daisy and I are back from the NAB Show in Las Vegas and this week we share 2-3 key takeaways. For her part Daisy was impressed by the energy and mood at the show which was significantly brighter than last year. Daisy heard from a number of people contemplating new ventures, a big departure from last year when most people were hunkered down. Daisy shared further insights about specific companies she interviewed.
Then I talk a little more about my reactions to the Level 3 - Silverlight 3D streaming demo I saw in Microsoft's booth, which I wrote about on Tuesday, and also the new local TV station JV for mobile DTV that was unveiled at the show and which I wrote about yesterday.
Click here to listen to the podcast (14 minutes, 0 seconds)
Click here for previous podcasts
The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 10:15 AM ET|
Undoubtedly we've all had the experience at one time or another of watching (or trying to watch) a particular online video, only to have some problem arise that interrupts our experience. To the average user, it's a mystery what might have happened. Is it a problem with my computer? With my personal Internet connection? With my Internet service provider? With the source of the content?
Regardless, it causes user frustration, which can lead to clicking away from the video, possibly never to return. More often than not, the content provider isn't even aware of these user problems. As online video becomes more central to content providers' strategies and P&Ls, inferior user experiences are a growing concern for content providers. And given the vagaries of the Internet and the exploding volume of video being consumed, it's an issue unlikely to go away anytime soon.
That's where Conviva comes in. Conviva gives content providers unprecedented insight into their users' viewing behaviors as well as tools to quickly identify and resolve problems. As Darren Feher, Conviva's new CEO explained to me when I met up with him recently, and in a subsequent demo, the company's studies show that at least 25% of all streams suffer one problem or another. Affected users watch between 30-80% less video than those who don't have problems.
Here's how Conviva works: a small bit of its code is integrated by the content provider alongside the Flash or Silverlight player, whichever is used (in either case no user download involved). Conviva is also integrating with online video platforms (so far just thePlatform, but others to come), so the step is eliminated for the content provider. When deployed, Conviva's code monitors the user's video experience and sends back "heartbeat" reports every 10 seconds to the Conviva console. The console gives the content provider multiple views of their users' experiences, including things like a geographic distribution of current viewing, what player's being used, the average time it's taking to start streaming, the average duration of viewing, the amount of buffering, and so on. Conviva shares the science behind all of this if you're so inclined.
Conviva's secret sauce is mashing up all that in-bound data in real-time and detecting if/where problems exist, and when they do, what the source is. Problems could include buffering on the user's machine, issues with the currently-used CDN, congestion in the local ISP, etc. In addition to these telemetry/analytics services, the company also offers a service it calls "Conviva Distribution" which will seek to remedy problems as they arise based on a set of pre-configured policies. For example, if the user's machine is buffering, Conviva will adjust the stream being sent to a lower bit rate. Or if the CDN being used is the problem, Conviva will switch to another CDN (of the content provider's choosing) in mid-stream, unbeknownst to the user. The content provider gets real-time visibility into what troubleshooting is happening.
In addition to improving the user experience, Darren believes this degree of insight opens up new opportunities for content providers. For example, say there's a higher value set of streams, maybe for a subscription service or a live event. Those streams can be tagged and monitored separately, and have greater resources allocated to them to ensure up-time. Improved visibility into videos that are going viral means their placement on the site and their monetization can be enhanced. Another example is better-informed customer service agents responding to issues specific to a certain set of videos.
Some of what Conviva does is similar to analytics products like Omniture, performance measurement from companies like Keynote and Gomez and some of the reporting CDNs themselves provide to customers. But Conviva seems to bring together user viewing data in a unique and far deeper way than any of these. This week Conviva is helping NBC better understand its Olympics streaming using Silverlight. Conviva also counts Fox, ABC, NFL and others as customers. Conviva started life as Rinera Networks, pursing managed P2P distribution. It has raised $29 million to date from UV Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 8:13 AM ET|
Akamai is announcing its new "Akamai HD Network" this morning, and planning a 1pm webcast to explain the details. Akamai is positioning the network as the first to deliver HD-quality live and on-demand streaming for broadcast-sized audiences. The Akamai HD Network supports Flash, Silverlight and iPhone.
Key to the Akamai HD Network is support for adaptive bit rate ("ABR") streaming, which adjusts the quality of the video delivered based on prevailing network conditions, instant response for pause, rewind, startup, etc, an open standards HD video player and user authentication. Adobe has also optimized Flash to be delivered over Akamai's HTTP network, which appears to be a first. This allows Akamai to fully leverage its 50,000 HTTP edge-server network.
The evolution toward HD-quality delivery has been building steam recently, as content providers increasingly recognize that TV-quality video is becoming the expected norm for online video users. This is particularly true for heavy users who substitute online viewing for TV-viewing, but don't want a degraded experience. As convergence devices, which bridge broadband to the TV in the home take off, the quality bar will rise for all users. This means that all CDNs that want to be players in video delivery will need to be able to deliver HD quality at scale. Move Networks, which I've written about before, is another company playing an important role in enabling high-quality broadband-delivered video to the TV; others will no doubt follow.
More details coming in the webcast today at 1pm ET.
Friday, September 11, 2009, 12:08 PM ET|
I was only able to catch a little bit of the Titans-Steelers came last night on NBCSports.com, but what I did see was pretty impressive. This was the first of the "Sunday Night Football Extra" games that NBC Sports and the NFL plan to stream live this season. NBC Sports is using Silverlight for the first time, and the live HD broadcast included 5 different camera angles to choose from. Akamai is providing CDN services and Microsoft's Smooth Streaming for delivery.
NBC has been a pioneer in the delivery of online sports content, and with the 2008 Beijing Olympics setting a new standard. The NFL is not alone in pushing into online delivery though. As I noted recently in "2009 is a Big Year for Sports and Broadband/Mobile Video," there have been a ton of new initiatives this year across baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis, auto racing, etc.
I'm looking forward to having Perkins Miller, SVP, Digital Media and GM, Universal Sports, NBCU Sports and Olympics on my discussion panel at VideoSchmooze on Mon evening, Oct 13th in NYC. No doubt he'll have lots of great insights and data to share about how the season is progressing.
The next game on NBCSports.com is this Sun night, Bears vs. Packers, 8pm ET.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 7:42 AM ET|
Microsoft's Silverlight notched another high-profile win with yesterday's announcement by CBS Sports and the NCAA that CBSSports.com's March Madness on Demand (MMOD) will offer a high definition option using powered by Silverlight.
Over the past few years MMOD has become the signature online video sports event, with CBSSports.com successfully converting it in 2006 from a paid, subscription based model to one fully supported by ads. The payoff has been evident: in '08 MMOD had 4.8 million unique visitors (a 164% increase over '07) who watched 5 million hours of live video (an 81% increase over '07).
CBSSports.com is building on its MMOD success by offering the higher quality option via Silverlight this year. Users who download the plug-in will get 1.5 mbps streams vs. the standard player's 550 kbps. Once again, all 63 games, from the first round through the championship game will be available. For office workers unable to watch on TV, online distribution continues to be a compelling value.
With MMOD, Microsoft is continuing to push Silverlight into high-profile sports events. Recall that Silverlight's inaugural run, supporting the 2008 Summer Olympics, was executed superbly. It showcased new features like multiple viewing windows and instant rewind/fast-forward. MMOD promises yet another premier opportunity for Silverlight to show its stuff.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Thursday, November 6, 2008, 9:58 AM ET|
Over the past several months Netflix has made a series of announcements related to its "Watch Instantly" feature. On the device side, there are new partnerships with TiVo (for Series 3, HD and HD XL models), Microsoft Silverlight (for Mac viewing), Samsung (for Blu-ray players), LG (for Blu-ray players), Xbox 360 and of course Roku. All allow Netflix Watch Instantly content to be delivered directly to users' TVs. Meanwhile on the content side, there have been deals with Starz, CBS and Disney Channel, with more no doubt yet to come.
Our household has been an enthusiastic subscriber to Netflix for years and I welcome the commitment that Netflix appears to be making to Watch Instantly. However, as I pointed out in May, in "Online Movie Delivery Advances, Big Hurdles Still Loom," Watch Instantly is hobbled by its limited catalog, now totaling around 12,000 titles, just 10% of Netflix's total catalog, even after including the recently added Starz titles.
The fundamental problem Netflix is bumping up against in building out Watch Instantly's film catalog is Hollywood's well-established windowing process. Studios have wisely and methodically maximized their films' lifetime financial value by doling out the rights to air them to a series of distribution outlets. These rights unfold in a carefully calibrated timeline and have become wrapped up in a thick layer of contractual agreements extending to all parties in the value chain. It is a system that has served all constituencies well, generating billions of dollars of value. It is also unlikely to change in any material way any time soon.
As such, Netflix, the "world's largest online movie rental service," as it calls itself, is increasingly discordant. On the one hand, growing the Watch Instantly service is crucial to Netflix's long term success in the digital/broadband era but on the other, it doesn't have the ability to offer a competitive catalog that meets consumers' online delivery expectations. So what to do?
My recommendation is for Netflix to incorporate the delivery of TV programming, via Watch Instantly, into its core value proposition. Specifically, Netflix should be making an all-out effort (if it is not already doing so) to secure next-day rights to deliver all prime-time broadcast network programs to its subscribers.
This strategy provides Netflix with many clear benefits and positions it well for long-term success. First, in these tight economic times, it dramatically expands the value of the Watch Instantly feature, turning it into both a bona fide subscriber retention tool to battle churn as well as a high-profile subscriber acquisition lever (not to mention an exciting pull-through offer big box retailers could use in their Sunday circulars to generate traffic).
Second, it is a clever competitive strike against four primary alternative ways whereby consumers can watch network programs on demand: cable-based VOD, a la carte paid downloads at iTunes/Amazon/others, free online aggregators like Hulu/Fancast/others and DVRs (though note the TiVo deal addresses this last option).
A comprehensive Netflix prime-time catalog compares well with each alternative. Against cable VOD it offers familiar, superior navigation plus a viable revenue stream for broadcasters while cable tries to get Canoe ready; against paid downloads, the obvious advantage of being a value-add service; against online aggregators, commercial free delivery; and against DVRs, the lack of consumer hardware purchases and persistent recording space limitations.
All of this should make Netflix a very appealing partner for the broadcast networks. They are getting hammered by ad-skipping, audience fragmentation, quality programming migrating to cable and an inferior single revenue source business model. The prospect of Netflix offering payments for their programs should be well-received. There may be concerns about programs' long term syndication value and also the potential enablement of a new gatekeeper. In better times these might be deal-killers; in this climate they shouldn't be.
Finally, there's the big potential long-term Netflix prize: if it can stitch together a large-scale network of compatible devices for Watch Instantly distribution, it could create a viable "over-the-top" alternative to today's multichannel subscription services (cable/telco/satellite). As I described in my recent "Cord Cutters" post, to really succeed, Netflix would have to eventually incorporate cable network programming. But if its reach is wide and its economics sound, that's within the realm of possibility as well.
But those are long-term issues. For now, while the recent CBS deal is a great start, Netflix should be working double-time to build out a full library of broadcast programs. It would dramatically improve Watch Instantly's appeal and value, while positioning Netflix well for the broadband era.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
5 Updates to Note: Brightcove 3, Silverlight 2, Google-YouTube-MacFarlane, NBC-SNL-Tina Fey, Joost-HuluTuesday, October 14, 2008, 8:12 AM ET|
With so much going on in the broadband video world, I rarely get an opportunity to follow up on previously discussed items. So today, an attempt to catch up on some news that's worth paying attention to:
Brightcove 3 is released - Back in June I wrote about the beta release of Brightcove 3, the company's updated video platform. Today Brightcove is officially releasing the product. I got another good look at it a couple weeks ago in a briefing with Adam Berrey, Brightcove's SVP of Marketing. I like what I saw. Much more intuitive publishing/workflow. Improved ability to mix and match video and non-video assets in the way content is actually consumed. New emphasis on high-quality delivery to keep up with ever-escalating quality bar. Flexibility around video player design and implementation. And so on.
The broadband video publishing/management platform is incredibly crowded, and only getting more competitive. Brightcove 3 ups the ante further.
Silverlight 2 is released - Speaking of releases, Microsoft officially unveiled Silverlight 2 yesterday, making it available for download today. I was on a call yesterday with Scott Guthrie, corporate VP of the .NET developer Division, who elaborated on the details. NBC's recent Olympics was Silverlight 2 beta's big public event, and as I wrote in August, the user experience was seamless and offered up exciting new features (PIP, concurrent live streams, zero-buffer rewinds, etc.).
A pitched battle between Microsoft and Adobe is underway for the hearts and minds of developers, content providers and consumers. Silverlight has a lot of catching up to do, but as is evident from the release, it intends to devote a lot of resources. Can you say Netscape-IE or Real-WMP? This will be a battle worth watching.
Google and Seth MacFarlane are hitting a home run with "Cavalcade of Comedy" - A month since its debut, Google/YouTube and Seth MacFarlane seem to have hit on a winning formula at the intersection of video syndication, audience growth and brand sponsorship. On YouTube alone, the 10 short episodes have generated over 12.7 million views according to my calculations, while this TV Week piece quotes 14 million + when all views are tallied.
Last month, in "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications" I wrote at length about how powerful GCN and YouTube could be for the budding Syndicated Video Economy, yet noted that the jury is still out on whether Google's really committed to GCN. "Cavalcade's" early success surely gives GCN some tailwind. (Btw, for more on Google/YouTube's myriad video initiatives, join me on Nov. 10th for the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast Panel, which David Eun, the company's VP of Content Partnerships will be a panelist)
NBC/SNL and Tina Fey set a new standard for viral success - Tina Fey's Sarah Palin skits are hilarious and unlike anything yet seen in viral video. Usage is through the roof: a new study by IMMI suggests that twice as many people watched the skits online and on DVR than did on-air, while Visible Measures's data (as of 3 weeks ago!), shows over 11 million video views. SNL is smack in the middle of the cultural zeitgeist once again, with Thursday night specials and reports of a new dedicated web site in the mix.
To put in perspective how disruptive viral video can be to the uninitiated, several weeks ago I heard a pundit on CNN's AC360 dismiss the potential impact of the Fey skits on the election with a wave of his hand and a remark to the effect of "come on, how many people stay up that late to watch SNL really?" How's that for being out of touch with the way today's world really works? Political pros and other taste-makers should take heed - viral video can be a cultural tour de force.
Joost Flash version is here, finally - Remember Joost? Originally the super-secret "Venice Project" from the team that made a killing on KaZaA and Skype (the latter of which was acquired by eBay, permanently undermining former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's M&A acumen), Joost today is announcing its Flash-based video service. You might ask what took the company so long given this is where the market's been for several years already? I have no idea.
But here's one key takeaway from Joost's story: because of its lineage, the company was once regaled as the "it" player of the broadband video landscape. Conversely, Hulu, because of its big media NBC and Fox parentage, was dismissed by many right from the start. Now look at how their fortunes have turned. When your mom used to tell you "don't judge a book by its cover," she was right.
What do you think? Post a comment.
Monday, April 14, 2008, 5:59 PM ET|
The press releases began flying today, timed with NAB's kickoff. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Move continues its fund-raising prowess, raising a large C round. As more content providers push the HD quality bar, Move's content delivery services have increased appeal.
Hulu, the NBC-Fox aggregator is using Signiant's media management platform to ingest content from the various content partners it works with.
For the first time Microsoft has used a third-party content security system to add a layer of protection for content providers using the company's new rich media plug-in.
Building on its recent launch of EZSearch and EZSEO to enable video discovery, EveryZing has introduced a management console for the products for which Cox Radio will be the first customer.
Live streaming gains further traction as Mogulus and Kulabyte announce deal to bring high-quality live Flash streaming to producers.
No doubt there will be plenty more over the next couple of days.
Posts for 'Silverlight'