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How to Get Your Video on As Many Devices as Possible

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Congrats! You’ve just developed a stylish, highly functional streaming video app for your content provider client. Unfortunately, your app only runs on proprietary mobile handsets made by an offshore manufacturer who views iPhones, Android devices, and BlackBerries as passing fads. If only your content provider client hadn’t signed an exclusive distribution deal with this manufacturer! Now who will ever get to see your app?

This is an extreme example of app writing gone wrong, but it points to the dangers that stalk all streaming media apps. The problem is this: You want to provide your client with the very best app you can, plus ensure that its content can be played on every mobile phone, PC, internet-connected TV, and tablet out there. In other words, you want to get your video on every device, which is no mean feat.

In fact, “It’s impossible, because new devices are coming onto the market every week,” says Paul Jacobs, general manager and vice president of Jacobs Media/jacAPPS. “In many cases, developers aren’t informed of the technical requirements of these devices until they are on the market. Oftentimes, we need to go to the store to purchase them to find out exactly what works and what doesn’t.”

That said, there are ways to maximize the variety of devices that can see your client’s streaming media content. So even if you can’t be on every media-capable device out there, you can ensure that your app—or at least an optimized version of your site—will be on the most popular ones.

Here's a short list of ten tips for making sure your video plays on every device. For the details, read on.

In a World of Format Faiths, Seek to Be Tech-Agnostic

There are developers who are pledged to the iPhone, others to Android devices, and still others to the BlackBerry. Add the various “sects” committed to Flash, iPad, and Google TV, and the plethora of “format faiths” just keeps growing.

You too can follow this path, ignoring the fact that consumers don’t care about format faiths. They are accustomed to standards-based TVs and believe that all content should be available on all platforms, period. Or you can pay attention to consumer preferences—and, by extension, the likelihood that they will select and view the content supported by your app or site—and program your software application accordingly.

Smart developers try to be as technology-agnostic as possible. Take Boxee, the maker of internet TV devices and software. “We originally developed our content distribution platform using a python API and XML,” says Andrew Kippen, Boxee’s vice president of marketing. “But since our goal is to make it as easy as possible for content providers to distribute through us, we are now going toward an HTML5 open source platform. Ideally, content providers will simply provide us with access to the video on their main websites. There will be no need to write unique apps and no reason for Boxee not to have access to everything that’s out there, licensing permitting.”

Look for Open Source Solutions … but Don’t Ditch Proven Performers

In embracing the HTML5 open source, Boxee is maximizing its ability to serve multiple devices. So is Turner Sports, which is also moving toward HTML5 to package online content such as TNT Overtime on NBA.com, TNT RaceBuddy, and PGA Championship Live.

Turner Sports also uses Flash and other popular streaming media standards. “In a perfect world, there would only be one standard that would encompass all devices, but this isn’t a perfect world,” says Peter Scott, Turner Sports’ vice president of emerging media. “To be on as many devices as possible, we serve the major formats like Flash, and we keep up on whatever new devices like iPad are having a serious impact on the market. So yes, we like HTML5 and the idea of de facto standardization, but we aren’t walking away from proven performers in the meantime.”   

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