Brightcove Attempts to Straddle Front Line in Mobile Video Wars

2/18/10Follow @wroush

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making that business case work for them. If you are a Brightcove customer, you are good to go—that is how we want to do it. That’s an important role that Brightcove can play, taking the cost and complexity out of supporting a fractured mobile environment. We’re trying to play that role here. We’re offering the tools to do both.

X: More and more people, including myself, watch TV shows at websites like Fox.com or Hulu rather than paying for cable TV. But most of those sites are Flash-based—and many of the publishers, like Fox, are Brightcove customers. Do you see your H.264 option as a way to get Fox’s content ready for non-Flash-compatible devices like the iPad?

JW: Specific to Fox, they’re delivering video to the desktop PC in a way that is secure and fully monetized. That’s premium content that they don’t want people downloading and taking. The way HTML5 and H.264 work on mobile devices, including Apple devices, it’s a progressive download of a high-resolution file, not streaming. That is not something Fox is likely to do, until there is a secure wrapper for that. They can go build a custom application for the iPhone OS to protect that content, but that’s work they would have to do. Additionally, they want to monetize that content, so being able to add pre-roll advertising and have it render on the device correctly is not very easy to do with H.264 and HTML5. Not that we’ll never get there, but right now that’s really hard. Those walls are going to come down over time, and Brightcove is going to be investing to make that easier.

X: So the H.264 option is not really equivalent to the Brightcove Mobile Experience for Flash.

JW: We’re not providing a secure wrapper or monetization on the HTML5/H.264 environment today. We would love to. Some of that depends on what happens with the standards. We have to make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel or competing with the standards in any way. We are going to try to invest and innovate around the standards. It’s really early days. The right path forward is not clear, and unfortunately, there are going to be some sharp edges for consumers. Again, for the top tier of the pyramid, the problem will probably be solved. What I am really worried about is the shoulders, torso, and long tail of distribution, where you don’t have a hundred developers that you can throw at the problem, and you don’t have $100 million budgets. That’s typically where customers have come to Brightcove as a one-stop shop for video distribution on the Web. Not having our customers become collateral damage presents a set of action items and challenges for us, but we are stepping up to that.

X: I get the sense that Brightcove is edging away from its traditional identification with Adobe and Flash, and trying to become more platform-agnostic.

JW: I think there’s some truth to that. I would nuance it and say that we do have a strong strategic alliance with Adobe—I personally worked at Macromedia years ago, and ran platform marketing for them, so I know all the people and have a strong affinity to their [software] stack and community. There is a strong relationship there. At the same time, what we provide for customers is a solution for getting video on the Web and distributing it to all audiences. That’s what customers pay us for. We have no platform leanings. Our business is solving the video distribution problem for our customers, and we are going to have to do whatever is necessary to solve that problem. To this point, Flash has been a great horse to ride, but now there are emerging pockets where we can’t ride that horse.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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