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Video: New Brightcove Platform Embraces Post-Flash World

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Almost Live here at Streaming Media West 2016 in Huntington Beach. I'm here with Matt Smith. Matt is one of the perennials that we interview. He goes from company to company. Often times the company he goes to work for gets acquired by a larger company and he leaves to go to another company. Matt, you're with Brightove now. What's your title?

Matt Smith: I'm happy to join Brightove. I'm the Vice President and Principal Media Evangelist.

Tim Siglin: Brightcove, of course, is in the beta process right now for its new platform, as I understand it, in talking to Steve and some of the other people at Information Today who have been testing with it. It seems like it's sort of modern broadcasting as opposed to the older style that Brightcove has had for the last couple years.

Matt Smith: Yeah, it's true the company has been spending the last many months combining the technologies of ZenCoder and Brightcove and Unicorn Media and has created this next-gen platform that is being used by a very big customer we can't talk about yet overseas which is this next generation of the Brightcove platform.

We're very excited about it. We think it's going to bring some--I hesitate to say revolutionary--leading-edge evolutionary features to market as we turn the calendar to 2017.

Tim Siglin: Speaking of the calendar turn to 2017, and your new platform and Bitmovin and some of the other companies I've talked to, years ago, we talked about Flash being dead and then last year we talked about Flash being dead. Now we're saying Flash is going to be dead at the end of the year. Part of that may be because of the fact that everybody is moving to HTML5 players, but part of it is also the fact that the browsers are actively keeping you from using Flash indiscriminately. What's your take on whether Flash is actually dead or when it's going to die?

Matt Smith: I think there's some forcing functions here. Google has said that Chrome 55 will no longer support Flash. What that means is that if you get a page with a video player, you'll have that broken puzzle icon, you can click to invoke it, but I think any product manager worth his or her salt will say, "That's a horrible user experience."

Tim Siglin: The same is true Safari now with OS 12 is doing the exact same thing. You have to actively...

Matt Smith: Firefox is kind of in the middle. Then you've got some of the ad networks who are saying, "We're no longer going to support it." I think that's really the last shoe to drop I think. I'll say this with a 35,000 foot view because I'm not an ad guy. I think the creative side of the house is the one we have to pull into the tent. I think the broadcasters ...

Tim Siglin: They are so used to creating in Flash.

Matt Smith: Or VPAID. VPAID has become the standard that got a bunch of things crammed into it to solve problems that needed more thoughtful approaches. No knock on the folks who created VPAID, but the market is maturing and now we've gotten to the point where we're not walking, we're running as an industry. We've all known each other for a long time. We're not starting to get a good cadence going.

VPAID solved a problem that has gotten more complex and we need more thoughtful approaches to that. That's what VPAID 3 brings, and some of these newer technologies. My observation is that companies like ours and big media brands that we service and some we don't, and others do kind of have their head on a swivel and they're like, "I see that month of December on my calendar. Me and my teams are working toward that." But I hear a lot that they grab their creative guy and go, "Look. I can't take this ad that Coca Cola has bought and run it on network in this format. I need HTML5."

I think it's going to be a sprint to the finish. There will be some video players left behind, unfortunately.

Tim Siglin: I'm sure there will be.

Matt Smith: But again, we're trying to be proactive. We had a cadence of reaching out to our customers to say, "This deadline is coming. Engage us. We'll help you." In the not too distant few weeks I'll write a manifesto on the death of Flash, why it's happening, what it means and all the different elements as a pre-Thanksgiving homage to this friend that we've dealt with but Steve Jobs didn't like very much.

Tim Siglin: Absolutely. Speaking of that, let's talk about some other technologies. DASH, VP9. Where do we sit in the industry with some of these technologies?

Matt Smith: DASH has become pretty vibrant. There's an industry forum that we see at some of these shows and many friends and colleagues that work in there. Maybe more than 80 organizations that are part of that industry forum. That's great. That means that people are helping to populate this and talk about it and engage people that aren't video specialists, and explain to them what it is.

Largely, my experience has been that DASH is gaining some traction in Europe and AsiaPac. Here in the States we're aware of it. We have people that talk about it. It's something I hear some media brands say, "Do you do DASH?" It's on the list of things.

Tim Siglin: It's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Matt Smith: No. Not yet.

Tim Siglin: But having said that--and we'll talk about HLS next--one of the ideas in the early days of Dash was the ability to have an MPEG2 transport stream capability. Obviously fragmented MP4 and late binding and those kind of things are in the DASH 264 that we see the industry form focusing on. One problem we seem to have is all HLS is not created equal. Is there a possibility Dash will solve that or will we still live in a universe where you've got everything HLS and everything else.

Matt Smith: I think DASH will solve many of those problems, but it's kind of like buying a car. You're like, "Well, I didn't get that feature where I can hit those buttons and not have to have that garage remote in the car. But, I got the leather seating I wanted and I got those power mirrors." Or another analogy, squeeze the balloon in one place or another. You're getting a lot of what you wanted, but not everything. You can't be happy.

It's part and parcel of this wonderful industry we're a part of. We're very thoughtful and we solve problems as we go. Sometimes it's not all things to all people. It's like trying to feed my 11 year old right now. She won't eat certain things.

Tim Siglin: She might like carrots today and not tomorrow. Talk about HLS. Obviously the idea that a couple years ago that Android was going to support HLS, it became the de facto standard. In reality we still seem to have problems with HLS to multiple device types.

Matt Smith: Absolutely. HLS on Android has become this hodge-podge because of the way that the OS is fragmented among carriers and among handsets and among manufacturers. I jokingly call it the Windows of mobile because it's this matrix management thing that reminds me of my days at Yahoo when I tried to hit this many Nokia phones and this many LG phones.

Android is not dissimilar in that it does support HLS, but to your point, different types and different flavors ...

Tim Siglin: Different operating system versions.

Matt Smith: Yeah. It's become tricky. I think Apple has made things a bit simpler with their support of fragmented MP4, but it doesn't get us across the finish line. I think it begs for this idea of dynamic packaging. There's some static packaging that's happening in the industry. On my panel, the gentleman from Viacom was talk about static packaging, and taking that mezzanine file and creating renditions as they go.

Dynamic packaging being, "I've still got that mezzanine file and I'm going to create a stream for Tim, a stream for Matt, and a stream for this guy." So that you're applying the right things for the right people at the right time. Dynamic ad insertion, DRM, all the elements that go into packaging and real-time.

Tim Siglin: Obviously you've got Unicorn, so you've got that ability to do that kind of stitching but the big question we've all had in the industry, where everybody in theory believes in late binding, can we scale that? When you're doing that start at the mez file and real time on the fly, package it up with different ads, etc., do we reach a point where there's a limitation that we wouldn't have if we prepackage like Viacom is talking about.

Matt Smith: I personally have seen it done in practice. At my last organization, we were able to scale with some of the biggest media brands, which is perhaps one of the reasons that Google acquired the company.

In practice, it can be done. It's an engineering challenge. I think it's a viable path forward.

Tim Siglin: What does that mean if it's an engineering challenge, from an infrastructure standpoint or from a workflow standpoint?

Matt Smith: Not so much infrastructure because the delta now is that the infrastructure is there. If you have an AWS or an Azure or a Google Cloud, you've got the ability to go this way and this way. Infrastructure is not a problem. It's writing the technology that says, "This person is requesting this stream. This person is requesting this stream. A thousand people are over here requesting this event that just spun up. That could be your Thursday night NFL stream on Twitter. Your infrastructure adjusts to that.

I just got a little dibble dabble here and there, but I've got a massive requirement over here or a growing requirement. You just scale accordingly. I'm oversimplifying but that's how it works.

Tim Siglin: That's an interesting potential play if you think about RTMFP and some of these other peer-to-peer approaches. That's stuff may have some legs in that model down the line.

Matt Smith: Sure.

Tim Siglin: But not in the way they were implemented before, but if they were engineered correctly.

Matt Smith: Sure. Dynamic edge packaging gets even more interesting if you own the last mile. Then it gets really interesting. Absolutely. If you go back to my early days, like Mark Cuban said, if we just enabled multicast networks, we would have gotten past all these problems.

Tim Siglin: We were just having that conversation on the plane yesterday with somebody about that. We were talking about Shark Tank. I mentioned that particular thing.

Last question. Monetization. Are media companies now actually making money on this?

Matt Smith: I don't want to overstate this. I think we are seeing these streaming infrastructures that some of these brands have been invested in for 5 years or more, are going from cost centers to profit centers. With a caveat, it's all about the audience, and it's all about the content. If it's a hit, if it's content people want to watch, and a brand they are familiar with and they know how to get to it, then yes, they are getting CPMs that approach 20 bucks.

Even in the local TV market that I served previously, which a lot of people say that's a tough nut to crack, but in market size from DMA 1 to DMA 30, say a Charlotte, and the higher CPMs, closer to 10 dollars, but TV stations are monetizing their news casts. They're making money off of these streams. I'd go to a small market not far from me in Tyler Texas, where there was an affiliate who said, "We really can't drive a viable CPM model for our streams yet. We have faith." But they were going out and selling the ad rate to the local Chevy dealer, and they'd put up a slate with their branding and their information and maybe even, "Contact someone for a special internet rate."

I thought it was a real creative way to--at a minimum--offset the costs and maybe make a little bit of premium off it.

Tim Siglin: And also get the consumer used to seeing those commercials in there.

Matt Smith: That's the important thing, Tim, is that they're engaging with viewers, not unlike the whole Twitter, NFL experiment, engaging with the audience where they want to be on that device, on a tablet or on a smartphone or in some cases these stations are even building Roku channels and channels on a Samsung smart TV.

Tim Siglin: Awesome. Matt, as always, fascinating. Matt Smith, now with Brightcove. Again this is Streaming Media's Almost Live at Streaming Media West 2016. Thanks for joining us.

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