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CES '16: The GIVE Project Aims to Push HTML5 Video Forward

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A critical step in the development of online video took place today at CES, as several members of the GIVE Project held a panel discussion to state their intentions.

This is likely the first many have heard of the GIVE Project, as it released its launch press release on December 22, a difficult time to break news. GIVE stands for "global internet video ecosystem," and the group's purpose is to push HTML5 video forward quickly, to create an ecosystem where developers can write a player once and be assured it will work on every screen, whether that's a television, a computer, or a portable.

GIVE is spearheaded by the CTA and the steering committee includes Adobe, Akamai, LG, Samsung, Sky-UK, Sony, Starz, and WWE. Today's all-star panel included representatives of Adobe, Akamai, Comcast, Sony, Microsoft, MLB Advanced Media, Samsung, and Starz.

"I’m old enough to remember when the business was simple. It's not so simple anymore," said Ray Milius, executive vice president of programming and operations at Starz, stating the reason for the group's formation. Today, video providers face complicated workflows and the need for multiple video libraries. Starz has three authenticated apps requiring multiple complex updates at times. "Anything we can do that simplifies that and standardizes helps us."

Continuing that theme, Will Law, chief architect at Akamai, said that his company has 3,000 media customers, all with their own media players (and often multiple versions of each). That's thousands of player combinations with no consistency. Poorly written video players are the reason behind many viewer hassles. Law wants to help create an environment where developers can write code and know they'll get reliable service.

Pointing out that the need for a consistent ecosystem isn't just about end-viewer ease, Dr. Paul Hearty, vice president of the technology standards office at Sony, said, "This all comes down to dollars at the end of the day." It's pure business and money, he said, GIVE isn't just about easy player creation, but about knowing that in-stream ad insertions will work reliably and consistently for every viewer. Sony has been in favor of HTML5 video delivery for years, he said. Although the company is also in deep with HbbTV, he sees HTML5 with extensions as the way to proceed. "What we think is the way to go forward is to hook ourselves up with the most vital and moving-forward platform."

"The good news is that HbbTV is already HTML5 and is moving to HTML5 video," said Bill Foote, director for DTV technology and standards at Samsung. All parties are moving in an aligned direction. "There's a lot of will to converge on that in a platform." He stressed that the group was serious about the "G" in GIVE standing for "global"—that the group is aiming to create a worldwide platform.

"Basically we're a startup at this point," said Hearty of Sony. "We hope we don't become a standard treadmill." The group hopes to achieve substantial progress by this year's NAB, showing momentum in the short-term.

The panel moderator, Michael Bergman, senior director for technology and standards at the CTA, repeatedly encouraged people to get involved with the project's work by emailing standards@CE.org. It's the way to get a seat at the table with a lot of powerful players, he stressed.

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