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Adobe Pass Graduates to 2.0

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The last time we shot a passing glance at Adobe Pass, the company's authentication tool for content protected by Adobe Access and other DRM schemes, the Pass service was just reaching the 1.0 milestone. Today, Adobe announced version 2.0 of Adobe Pass, after notching more than 88 million authenticated Olympic streams on its belt.

"Adobe Pass is now integrated with more than 150 cable and satellite operators," the company said in a press release.

Back in early 2011, Adobe's focus was less on cable and satellite operators and more on how to deliver Flash video to mobile handsets, via Flash Player for Mobile and an Adobe Pass single-sign-in scheme.

"Pay TV providers using Adobe Pass as a virtual service provider can enable single sign-in, allowing their cable subscribers to access premium content online and on multiple devices," said Todd Greenbaum, senior product manager for Adobe Pass.

Adobe hoped that Pass would enable content providers and programmers to adjust to a market where consumers want to watch pay TV content on more than just their television, engendering viewer loyalty to a single provider while also allowing content owners to see an increase in traffic to their own websites -- thanks in no small part to the single-sign-on option.

At the time of launch, Adobe had signed up Turner Broadcasting System Inc., MTV Networks, Comcast, and Synacor. Today, Adobe says it has enabled TV content viewing on multiple devices from a wide array of three-letter U.S. networks, including Fox, ESPN, CNN, TNT, MTV, Disney, and NBC, with the latter specifically being the NBC Olympics.

According to the company, Adobe Pass supports "over 40 sites and mobile apps from 25 top programmers today" leading up to the launch of Adobe Pass 2.0, which the company says was successfully tested during the Olympics.

One number that Adobe mentions in the Adobe Pass 2.0 press release needs a bit of explanation: the company claims that the integration of Adobe Pass in to the infrastructure of 150 cable and satellite operators allows "approximately 98 percent of U.S. pay TV households to access premium content via the Adobe Pass Service".

The U.S. market for television viewing is over 128 million households, and cable and satellite's combined market share sits at just about 78 percent. This means other 22 percent, or almost 29 million households, are passed over by Pass and its customers.

When asked to clarify the 98 percent of pay TV subscribers claim, Adobe's Todd Greenbaum, senior product manager of Adobe Pass, had this to say.

"NCTA reports the top 25 operators (all types)," said Greenbaum. "If you add those up, it comes out to 97.4 million. Anecdotally, we've heard that the hundreds of smaller operators not on the list add about another 2 to 3 million in total, so the actual grand total is right around 100 million total pay TV households. So we service 98 percent of the total number of pay TV households."

When asked about cord-cutting subsequent the NCTA numbers, which were published in March, 2012, Greenbaum said it's Adobe's understanding that "cord cutting has been fairly limited so [total penetration] should still be close to that number".

Regardless, Adobe says the number of authenticated streams increased ten-fold in January to June, 2012, and that it authenticated more than 88 million streams for the London Olympic Games. The company has not clarified how many unique viewers comprised the 88 million streams nor has it provided a breakdown of the average number of authenticated streams per viewer.

No wonder there were so many complaints about NBC's tape-delay strategy for the Olympics, if almost 29 million viewers weren't able to watch any sport live.

As a quasi-cord-cutter, I can attest that Adobe Pass actually worked. Despite the fact that I have a cable modem from Charter, I had no legal way to watch live Olympic streaming on any service provider since I have no cable television service as part of the my high-speed cable modem package.

Adobe Pass's back-end technology has a tie into Adobe Access (formerly Flash Access) and both verifies (authentication) and allows viewing (authorization) based on a service provider-defined set of business rules. Adobe Access is a digital rights management (DRM) solution offered by Adobe, which works in conjunction with the company's Flash Media Server (FMS) now called AMS or Adobe Media Server.

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