TV Everywhere was created several years ago by partners including Time Warner and Comcast with the concept of having programming available on many different devices. Customers could access this programming by authenticating the device, meaning they would need to log in and prove they were an actual paying cable TV subscriber. How has this bold initiative gone? Not well. One might say still stuck on the runway after several years. But that may change soon, as Adobe this month officially launches and rolls out Primetime, a robust set of video publishing, analytic tools and advertising options. So...are we finally cleared for takeoff?
Adobe Primetime has been in beta for months and has actually gone through many revisions, being fine tuned for ease of use and incorporating a robust feature set. It offers seamless ad insertion, digital rights management (DRM), Communications and Video Accessibility act (CVAA)-compliant closed captioning, as well as enhanced video analytics. The new Adobe Primetime Player will support HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), in addition to the existing HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) on the desktop. HLS will also be available on all Adobe Primetime Player mobile platforms and support of the MPEG-Dash format will be considered for future versions. All the hooks are in place to offer the user an easy-to-use authentication system, and the software works for desktops as well as Android (Samsung, Google, etc) and iOS (Apple, iPhone, iPad, etc) devices.
The rollout will initially focus on two key partners, Comcast Cable and NBC Sports Group. NBC Sports will incorporate on-demand programming as well as live broadcasts, such as the National Hockey League, the Golf Channel and Pro Football Talks. Other partners will follow and there are obvious choices as far as storage is concerned, such as Cisco Systems, Amazon Web Services, Akamai and others. Adobe will initially use Apple’s HLS HTTP Live Streaming protocol as well as its own Adobe Flash embedding. But the companies’ roadmap for later this year is to develop an HMLT5 solution, to be compatible with streaming media boxes, mobile browsers and smart TVs.
Some challenges do remain on the table. The most notable is the fragmentation of so many portable and mobile TV devices. Different brands, operating systems, hardware requirements, it is a lot to keep up with. Also the jury may still be out with regard to streaming media ad insertion. Although pre and post rolls are standard fare on TV, they can be oddly out of place and/or annoying to consumers curled up with their iPad. Traditional broadcast applying methods that have been around since Milton Berle is a chancy bet. But they may not have many other options. Time produces acceptance usually. There was a time ten years ago when large full-column Web ads looked huge and wildly out of place. Now people just accept them. Or perhaps, just ignore them.
The success of Adobe’s Primetime and the concept of TV Anywhere will ultimately be decided by the public. Again we come down to a choice of consumer convenience versus broadcasters protecting their content investments. The whole plan sounds future-forward hearing the broadcasters describe it, but really they are just adding an additional hoop to jump through to DRM their content. You can watch the shows anywhere as long as you have a real TV subscription somewhere. The concept is convenient for broadcasters but is it easy (enough) and inviting for consumers? Everyone is betting, and hoping, the answer is yes. If TV Everywhere and Adobe Primetime can spur adoption and ramp up the entire initiative, this long-stagnant program may finally be able to take flight.