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Streaming Media East '15: What Can Replace Flash Video?

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Love it or hate it, Adobe Flash is still a force to be reckoned with for much of the web’s content. There are a number of factors explaining it’s continued use: DRM, market penetration, and ease of implementation. In recent years, many have questioned its continued usefulness, but the bigger question is what will replace it. Yesterday, at Streaming Media East in New York City, four industry experts tried to answer this question.

Moderator Jan Ozer started the session with “Raise your hand if you hate Flash.” Five to ten people enthusiastically raised their hands.

Bitmovin’s CEO Stefan Lederer talked about his company's custom player, which has been implemented by Flimmit (an Austrian subscription video-on-demand service) and Austrian Public Broadcaster ORF. Supported platforms include browsers, mobile devices, and connected TVs. Bitmovin also offers cloud-based transcoding. Its browser falls back to Flash or HLS, if needed. Several DRM providers and services are available for licensing.

Tobias Patella, technical consultant for CastLabs, said his company offers similar services. Its player relies on a Flash/Silverlight fallback, and it offers multiple DRM options (including Widevine Modular, PlayReady, and Access). Patella gave a case study about client HBO Europe: Its library streams to 15 countries, and its CastLabs implementation took only 2 months. CastLabs uses Widevine Modular DRM in Chrome and PlayReady in other browsers.

Finally, OpenTelly’s Pieter-Jan Speelmans talked about playing HLS video in HTML5. His company's key differentiator is that its product doesn't require plugins and doesn't fall back to Flash or Silverlight. Speelmans's case study highlighted European site VRT. Previously, VRT’s video strategy was a four-pronged approach that included plugins, custom apps, MP4 video, and multiple streaming formats (including HLS, HDS, RTMP and RTSP). VRT needed to solve problems of high cost, high complexity, and a poor viewing experience. OpenTelly’s Theoplayer, an HTML5 player that works in all platforms and browsers, made that possible.

Each speaker fielded questions from the audience, with the first questions centering around what platforms were supported by each service.

Bitmovin's Lederer said, "On Android, we use Android Exoplayer which is really nice....On iOS, we use HLS.” Speelmans of OpenTelly said, “With Theoplayer you can really use one player everywhere.”

Lederer provided a different perspective. “Some Samsung devices use the Android stock browser, not Chrome. The Android Exoplayer is most universal,” he said. But Patella added, “Browser-based playback on Android isn’t that good, and the Exoplayer only works for Android 4.4 and newer. We offer our own custom Android SDK that gives more support for other versions.”

When asked about live streaming, Lederer replied, “We prefer DASH for live streaming. It reduces end-to-end delay.” All three agreed that live streaming protocols are almost the same, and there is no single catch-all solution.

Ozer posed this final question to the panel, “What have your customers said about switching from Flash?”

“Our customers are almost universally positive. They are happy that their customers won’t have to deal with plugins anymore," Patella said.

While all three presented proprietary solutions for replacing Flash, they shared common elements. Each has several large broadcast customers that see the need for a universal streaming solution that does away with plugins. All include DRM options to protect premium content. Finally, all make it easy for customers to switch by not requiring new transcodes or transmuxes.

Watch the video below and download Ozer's presentation


Stefan Lederer of Bitmovin

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