Brightcove Basks In Light of Adobe’s New Strobe

4/20/09Follow @wroush

Cambridge, MA-based video hosting provider Brightcove has long had all of its eggs in Adobe Systems’ basket: the company’s entire platform is built around Adobe’s Flash streaming media format. But now the two companies’ relationship is growing even closer.

At the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas today, Brightcove and San Jose, CA-based Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) are announcing a collaboration intended to make it harder to pirate Flash-based streaming media files and easier for users of Adobe’s video production software to publish their videos through Brightcove’s system. Brightcove also says that it intends to make its platform compatible with Strobe, a new media player development framework unveiled by Adobe today.

Strobe is a response to complaints from Web developers that it’s too difficult to build extensive Web-based media sites using the existing Flash development tools. It provides building blocks that developers can use to create customized, interactive websites that include games, software, advertising, and the like. Brightcove—which serves customers like the New York Times, Showtime, and the Discovery Channel and is the single largest host of Flash-based video for big media companies—says it wants to make sure that developers who turn to the Strobe platform can still use Brightcove to host the video portions of their sites.

I caught up with Jeff Whatcott, Brightcove’s senior vice president of marketing, by phone last week before he set out for Las Vegas. Whatcott, who’s an Adobe veteran and also helped to launch Drupal publishing company Acquia, says he believes Brightcove was “the first phone call” Adobe made when the media software giant set out to find partners for the Strobe launch. I asked him to explain, among other things, how Strobe’s features overlap with those of Brightcove 3, the new, more customizable hosting platform the company introduced last October.

Xconomy: The Strobe platform that Adobe is introducing today sounds like it actually has a lot of the same features as Brightcove 3, when it comes to customizing the look and feel of a Web video player.

Jeff Whatcott: It’s similar in some ways. But we’re coming at the market from two different directions. They are coming at it from the application developer side—people building totally customized user experiences, which is certainly a valid set of use cases. We’re coming at it from the complete solution side, where people want to do a lot of deep branding that…affects the appearance of the player, as opposed to completely tweaking it out. The two kind of meet in the middle. With Strobe and Brightcove 3, the full spectrum of use cases is covered.

There’s nothing out there like Strobe from a company of Adobe’s stature. If that’s going to be in the marketplace, we want to make sure that people can use it with Brightcove’s service. So we’re going to working with Adobe on interoperability between their player and our backend service, so it will work in that environment.

X: Don’t most Brightcove customers—companies that host their videos on your backend—use the Brightcove player almost by default? I’m not clear on how the Strobe integration would benefit them, unless you’re saying that customers could substitute Strobe-based players for the Brightcove player.

JW: The vast majority of our customers absolutely do use our player today, although with the rollout of Brightcove 3 last fall we made our whole platform something that you could adapt in whole or in part. Our server side has a bunch of APIs [application programming interfaces] for getting video out of our system into whatever framework you want to offer to build a custom user experience. So yeah, customers could theoretically substitute those two.

But again, the focus of Strobe is more application developers who are building completely custom applications that have video as a part of them. The way to think about it is, a lot of times, with video on the Web, you see a Web page with a video player in it, and that video player needs to be customized to look like the rest of the page. That is the classical use case for the Brightcove 3 player today. Whereas Adobe is focusing here on people building out completely custom websites in Flash. For example, think of a major shoe manufacturer running a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. They are going to run a splash page that will be a completely customized experience, where you can … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Xconomy's chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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