In the last issue of VOD Professional magazine, Florian Pestoni,
Group Product Manager, Media & New Technologies at Adobe, wrote
about the rise of TV over IP networks. For this issue I followed up
with Florian to ask about monetisation, the threat posed to Flash
from HTML5 and why Apple isn't using Adobe's products.
Kanji: Hi Florian. Can you tell us a little about
yourself and what Flash Access is.
Pestoni: I'm the Group Product Manager working in the 'Flash
Runtimes' organisation that includes Flash Player and Air across
all platforms. The primary area of focus is around video and
monetisation and a critical area of that is content protection
which is where a technology like Flash Access comes in. Flash
Access is a product which launched last year and one of the major
differentiators for it as a content-protection or DRM solution is
that it's built right into Flash Player and Air. So that gives
content providers who want to distribute content securely and
monetise it the fantastic reach of the Flash platform on all types
Kanji: So a video application doesn't need to integrate
with any other DRM technology?
Pestoni: Right, it's built right in. For developers who are
building video apps, they just need to make a couple of calls and
in the backend run Flash Access server so that the content is
protected and usage rights are only granted to the group of users
that the business model dictates.
Kanji: And can you give us a real-life example of how
this is being used?
Pestoni: So, VUDU is a company owned by Wal Mart and it recently
launched a streaming service to PCs and Macs and what they were
looking for was something that had broad distribution which didn't
require the end-user to install any new plugins: something that was
truly a web-based experience and that provided a high level of
protection because VUDU licences really high-value content from all
the major film studios. So they turned to Adobe for a solution
based on Flash Player on the client side and Flash Access on the
Streaming on PCs has been around for a while, but with
technologies like Flash the user experience has improved
dramatically. There's been a transition from external media player
delivery (so using something like Windows Media Player) to true
web-based delivery so you get that experience within the web
Kanji: And what was the strategic thinking behind Adobe
creating and building something like Flash
Pestoni: That's a good question. We view Flash and Flash Player
as a platform for rich content including video. If you look at the
use cases for video there's a broad range - from UGC like YouTube,
video-calls with services like Skype and Google Talk and premium
video content which owners look to monetise. The need is to meet
the content-owner's expectations. So introducing a product like
Flash Access really allowed us to raise the bar in terms of
security and content protection that we can offer to the extent
that the movie studios who are members of the DECE or UltraViolet
(all major studios with the exception of Disney) have approved
Flash Access as one of the few DRM's that would carry this very
high-end premium content.
We launched Flash Access with Windows, MAC and Linux right off
the bat. Later on we announced AIR for TV which brings AIR to
connected TVs and Blu-Ray players - you can think of AIR as Flash
for apps, ie outside of the browser. At CES earlier this year,
Samsung announced their intention to support AIR for TV. And if you
look at one of my earlier blog posts I also said we're extending
Flash Access to mobile devices. We allow one solution to target all
sorts of devices.
Kanji: And what conversations have been going on
internally at Adobe about HTML5? Is it a competitor tech and if so,
how do you compete with it?
Pestoni: Well I think we see HTML5 and Flash as being
complementary. Flash Player lives inside an HTML web page so they
already work side-by-side. And over time, some things you could
only do with Flash have become possible with HTML. There's some
great functionality with HTML5 but one thing it hasn't fully worked
out yet is video codecs and content protection. So on that front,
with Flash Player, regardless of the browser, content is encoded to
the H264 standard which is the most prevalent standard out there,
you get content protection in the form of Flash Access. So we still
think that if you're trying to create a high-quality content
solution you'd use Flash.
Kanji: So HTML5 is not a
Pestoni: I don't see it that way. We've always had this
complementary relationship with HTML: we have great tools for HTML
designers. It certainly gets more coverage if you present it as a
"death-match" between HTML and Adobe but I don't see it that
Kanji: I needed to ask the question! And that leads on
to the next question: why isn't Apple using
Pestoni: And I would recommend that you call Cupertino (Apple's
head office) and ask them that.
Kanji: Ok! Let me phrase the question in a different
way. How disappointed was Adobe that Flash wasn't incorporated into
Pestoni: Again, our focus has been on creating a great platform
for content providers. We focus very much on mobile devices - we
have a great working version of Flash and AIR on Android devices. I
think we've clearly demonstrated there's a great user-experience
around Flash and AIR but I think each company has to make their own
best call about what features and functionality to include in their
products and then ultimately the consumer will make the right
Kanji: Well, as you say, the consumer should be the
winner because it's good to have competition...
Pestoni: There's a benefit for consumers for sure. If you look
at tablets and OS's that are coming out; they get an advantage by
offering the full web rather than just apps.
Kanji: And that's a big difference isn't it? You're
backing the full web over the alternative, enclosed universe of
apps from an app store?
Pestoni: Well the thing is you can actually create an AIR app
for example and say that you want it to run on Android and iOS. So,
really for developers who want to target different platforms this
is a great option. We've always served both designers and
developers and we understand how they work together. We have tools
targeted at both groups and in most projects you're usually going
to have some mix of the two.
Kanji: Moving on, how have you noticed video-on-demand
developing over the past few years?
Pestoni: Well, I've been working in media for over a decade and
it's been a great ride. There's been so much change and progress. I
still remember when streaming video meant a postage-stamp sized
little window, with pixelated pictures, on your computer. And now
you have HD, super-high frame rates on a mobile device. The
technology has evolved tremendously. And so has the business side
of things. You now have companies like HULU and VUDU and Netflix
who really focus almost exclusively on VOD. And it's extending
elsewhere to companies who weren't previously targeting the online
space. So you have people like HBO with HBO GO. For consumers
that's a great boon because they can access the content they want
when they want it. There's also an emerging trend which is catching
on which is the TV experience overall. We're used to watching
television on TV but now there's more engagement with content so
we're using more devices to augment the viewing experience. The
other thing is that as bandwidth gets broader, TV is going to be
more and more delivered over-the-top or via the internet.
Kanji: And have you seen any innovative monetisation
models in the States?
Pestoni: My sense is that there's going to be as much business
model innovation as technical innovation in the online video space.
Advertising has always been a great model for monetizing content,
eg in free-to-air television, and with online delivery you get the
benefit of detailed metrics, the opportunity for ad
In addition, subscription is still a very good model. You've
seen the growth of Netflix in the US and they're now beginning to
expand internationally. And traditional Pay TV providers are also
expending their offerings with Internet distribution.
Then there's always going to be some content which is made
available in a more transactional model. So, theatrical content
makes the most money in the early days and weeks after release.
We're starting to see studios experiment with like making early
release window content available even sooner after the movie is in
In my mind, there's always going to be a combination of
transactional, subscription and advertising. The studios have
always been very adept at changing the model over the lifecycle of
a content product. You pay for it at the movies, then again for DVD
and then eventually you watch it on TV and there, it's
ad-supported. We're going to see changes in the business model over
Kanji: And how will Adobe evolve?
Pestoni: For us, we want to continue helping developers and
designers create fantastic content and solving the problem of
device fragmentation. It costs a lot of money to be able to target
different devices and this is where products like Flash and AIR can
provide cost-effective solutions.
And we will continue to offer tools, servers and services to
meet the needs of content programmers and distributors who want to
target consumers on all these devices.