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White Paper

The Importance of Open Standards
for Online Video Player Applications
      —September 2008
Table of Contents

THE ONLINE VIDEO SYNDICATION TREND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                                                     ...
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                            2

Technology Challenge...
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                            3

The Solution: Standa...
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                      4 Resour...
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                      5

Industry-standard Publishi...
The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications                                                     ...
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The importance of open standards for online video applications


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The importance of open standards for online video applications

  1. 1. White Paper The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications —September 2008
  2. 2. Table of Contents THE ONLINE VIDEO SYNDICATION TREND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGES AND BARRIERS TO GROWTH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Complex Distribution Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Lack of Standard Video Player Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 THE SOLUTION: STANDARDIZED WORKFLOWS AND VIDEO PLAYERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Open Video Player Initiative ..........................................3 Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Akamai Media Framework: A Foundation for Standardization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Industry-standard Publishing Workflows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Industry-standard Video Player Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 ABOUT AKAMAI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
  3. 3. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 1 The Online Video Syndication Trend For advertisers, syndication may be The boom in the availability of high-definition content along with growing broadband the best way to get the numbers up penetration has whetted consumers’ appetites for high-quality online video. Consider while still enabling the kind of precise these statistics: targeting that they’ve come to • According to ComScore, 11 billion videos were viewed online in April of 2008 by expect online2. Web users in the U.S. alone. • Nearly 71 percent of total Internet users watched online video that month. • By 2013, around 1 billion people worldwide will consume video content delivered over broadband, according to ABI Research1. For media companies and advertisers, capturing this valuable audience and the attendant ad dollars is of the utmost importance. The challenge is that, with the rare exception of YouTube, audiences are fragmented. Instead of accessing a single site, consumers are viewing video across a multitude of popular video destination sites such as Metacafe,, and the Web sites of major TV broadcast networks. These trends have spawned a new and fundamentally different approach to video distribution, one that analyst and publisher Will Richmond describes as the “syndicated video economy.” In this economy, the traditional model of tightly controlled distribution points is replaced by an emphasis on proliferating content to far-flung audiences. In other words, content owners must reach audiences wherever they reside in order to maximize digital media revenues. And to attract advertisers, publishers need to aggregate an audience that is large enough to make it impactful for advertisers. As agencies begin to invest more funds in video advertising, one of the key requirements is to reach the largest possible target audience while streamlining their media buying. THE SYNDICATED VIDEO ECONOMY PRESENTS CONTENT OWNERS WITH THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ‘DIRECT TO CONSUMER’ DISTRIBUTION MODELS “…more and more industry participants’ strategies—in both media and technology—[are] starting from the proposition that the broadband video industry will only succeed if video assets are widely dispersed and revenue creatively apportioned” —Will Richmond, analyst and publisher
  4. 4. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 2 Technology Challenges and Barriers to Growth As is evidenced by a number of sites and initiatives, such as and the syndica- tion strategies of companies like MTV Networks, companies are increasingly seeking to widely syndicate their video assets and engage in advertising revenue-share deals. However, in spite of the growth of online video syndication and the maturity of online distribution, two fundamental barriers stand in the way of further success: • Complex distribution workflows • Lack of standard video player applications Complex Distribution Workflows A media company that owns valuable video content—like news or sports highlights or full TV episodes—likely has two key goals: 1) Publishing content quickly for maximum audience impact 2) Distributing the content broadly through partners to maximize revenue and audience reach Unfortunately, many companies struggle to quickly distribute content because of their reliance on manual processes related to content preparation (transcoding and metadata creation), content ingestion, approval (editorial), policy and publishing. Adding distribution partners further complicates the distribution process. For example, companies may need to offer multiple content formats, and associate a variety of meta data and business rules with their content, such as around revenue sharing, geographic restrictions, and release windows. All of this information must travel with the content. To meet these objectives, companies need fast, automated distribution workflows, with full support for transcoding, meta data, business rules, and advertising. Lack of Standard Video Player Application To date, companies have used video player applications—either built from scratch or based on proprietary third-party technology—to suit the requirements of their own site and advertising technology solutions. The requirements of the new syndicated economy complicates matters. Now, in order to enable creative advertising revenue splits and third- party syndication deals, video players need to support the advertising rules and technology used by both content owners and syndication partners. In addition, to keep content fresh and interesting for viewers, video players must be able to automatically receive and publish new content from multiple third parties. By definition, proprietary video player applications are inflexible when it comes to accommodating different ad technologies, creative changes, and business policy modifications. As a result of a lack of standardization across video players, many companies are rebuilding their video players to include the ad logic and rules for their distribution partners. Not only is this manual effort extremely time-consuming, it’s not scalable from a business perspective. Video player applications developed leveraging popular video formats such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight enable content owners and publishers to deliver high- quality content in a branded player that promotes user engagement. However, while these development platforms offer complete creative flexibility and ownership of source code needed to represent and control branding, they require coding and developing from scratch. The result? Lengthy time to market and high development costs. In addition, integrating video publishing with video advertising providers and ad servers is difficult, especially as publishers and developers tackle these projects on a one-off basis. These issues impede the growth of video advertising on an individual site level as well as for the industry overall.
  5. 5. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 3 The Solution: Standardized Workflows and Video Players As with any emerging market, industry-wide success depends on the adoption of standards. For example, Macromedia, Inc., (now Adobe) the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and key advertising serving companies like DoubleClick, Inc. helped the industry standardize on a single way to build Flash ad banners so that they could be tracked across different sites. They simply encouraged the best practice of inserting a dynamic ‘ClickTag’ into a Flash banner that the ad server could populate with the correct URL when the ad was delivered. This provided ad agencies with a standard way to build ads that could be leveraged across multiple Web sites, and enabled publishers to accurately track metrics for their online media campaigns. This and other industry standardization efforts such as the IAB’s ‘universal ad package’, while seemingly simple measures, were key drivers for the proliferation of advertising online. With that in mind, Akamai—along with leading companies in the online video ecosystem—have created a resource to help media content owners and publishers address the new requirements around publishing workflows and video player applications. The Open Video Player Initiative For the last decade, Akamai has had the unique opportunity to work closely with top Media & Entertainment companies as they move their entertainment strategies online and play a key role in the Internet evolution from largely static flat sites to sites rich with video, and dynamic content and applications. Leveraging this experience, Akamai has accrued a considerable knowledge base around delivering high-quality consumer video experiences—iincluding best practices for video player application development. With a goal of sharing this knowledge with the industry and the development community, Akamai and its partners have launched a Web site dedicated to this initiative. The site——is a community resource for developers wanting to build online video players using Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. On the site, developers can access open code-based player references and resources that will ease the process of video player design and implementation, and simplify the process of publishing and syndication. As a result, companies will find it easier to support advertising-based business models and benefit from the syndicated video economy. HULU.COM’S FEATURE-RICH VIDEO PLAYER APPLICATION (BASED ON ADOBE FLASH AND THE AKAMAI MEDIA FRAMEWORK) IS WIDELY EMULATED IN THE INDUSTRY
  6. 6. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 4 Resources The goal of the site is to offer resources that promote best practices around video player application development. The following are available via the site: • Reference Implementations and Sample Code Player source code to speed development of video players as well as code and documentation to connect Open Video Player-based projects to leading advertising technologies. • Community Best Practices A forum for the exchange and sharing of community best practices. • Developer Forum an open exchange of ideas and expert advice on player development through a forum staffed by interactive designers and leaders in the Adobe Flash and Silverlight developer community. • Developer Resources A library of documentation and video tutorials that explain how to utilize Internet standards to build professional-grade online video players. Akamai Media Framework: A Foundation for Standardization A key component of the Open Video Player community is the Akamai Media Framework, a software development kit that can be used to solve common problems encountered when building media player applications in Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Key Benefits Key Features • Promotes best practices and open • Network and delivery management standards • Playback management • Reduces complexity (time and cost) • Metadata management • Extensible and flexible AkamaiConnection AkamaiLivePublish AkamaiMediaRSSParser AMD/FMS User Interface Application Logic AkamaiBOSSParser AkamaiEnhancesNetStorage HTTP DELIVERY HTTPBandwidthEstimate THE AKAMAI MEDIA FRAMEWORK FOR ADOBE FLASH: A FOUNDATION FOR MEDIA PLAYER APPLICATIONS
  7. 7. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 5 Industry-standard Publishing Workflows To scale and syndicate their content across multiple distribution partners, companies need to leverage industry-standard publishing workflows. To that end, more and more companies are turning to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) as a tool for managing and publishing their video content. The Akamai Media Framework includes an RSS parsing class, enabling companies to use the industry standard Media RSS to publish content to their video player. With support for metadata, RSS enables users to search on metadata to find videos of interest. Organizations can plug RSS feeds into players they have created, or can deliver them via the Akamai Stream OS media management solution, which integrates with the Akamai Media Framework. When video content is uploaded to directories in Stream OS, the directories are automatically added to the correct RSS feed for a hands-off approach to publishing. Additional distribution channels can be added simply by creating another RSS feed. Industry-standard Video Player Applications By leveraging the code included in the Akamai Media Framework, companies can focus on adding value to the player experience instead of on the more mundane ‘under the hood’ aspects of video player development. The framework provides free source code based on an open source license, minimizing hours spent on coding, debugging, and QA. The framework also enables companies to develop and standardize on a core media player that can be leveraged by multiple partners in a distribution network. Companies simply re-skin the player and distribute it for use. Because the underlying framework remains the same, the process of distributing content to new channels is greatly simplified. Facilitating Third-Party Integration With support for standardization around business logic, the framework facilitates integration of third-party solutions, such as ad serving through ‘connectors’. The Open Video Player site offers sample code-based reference implementations from leading advertising technology companies for easy integration and support of video ad formats, ad servers, and even ad networks. Publishers simply download code and documentation to leverage for their video player applications. Inaugural partners include: Ad Servers Ad Technology Providers Ad Networks • Black Arrow • Eyewonder • SmartClip • 24/7 Real Media • Panache • Scan Scout
  8. 8. The Importance of Open Standards for Online Video Player Applications 6 Summary As content owners and publishers seek to take advantage of the booming broadband video industry, they must explore new models for video distribution. Online video syndication is quickly taking hold as the means to reach the widest audience and maximize revenue-generating potential. To succeed, companies need to automate distribution workflows and standardize their video player applications. Akamai and industry leaders in online video distribution and advertising have developed a Web site providing the knowledge base and technology resources needed to drive syndication forward. In addition to developer and best practices forums, and online documentation and tutorials, the site offers access to technology standards and a framework for video player applications that support syndication business models. To join this community and access these forums and resources, please visit 1. The AdAge Web Video Report, In Web Video, Syndication May Rival Search, August 13, 2008 2. Ibid 3. VideoNuze, Welcome to the ‘Syndicated Video Economy’, March 11, 2008 The Akamai Difference Akamai® provides market-leading managed services for powering rich media, dynamic transactions, and enterprise applications online. Having pioneered the content delivery market one decade ago, Akamai’s services have been adopted by the world’s most recognized brands across diverse industries. The alternative to centralized Web infrastructure, Akamai’s global network of tens of thousands of distributed servers provides the scale, reliability, insight and performance for businesses to succeed online. An S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 company, Akamai has transformed the Internet into a more viable place to inform, entertain, interact, and collaborate. To experience The Akamai Difference, visit Akamai Technologies, Inc. U.S. Headquarters Akamai Technologies GmbH 8 Cambridge Center Park Village, Betastrasse 10 b Cambridge, MA 02142 D-85774 Unterföhring, Germany ©2008 Akamai Technologies, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part Tel 617.444.3000 Tel +49 89 94006.0 in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited. Akamai and the Fax 617.444.3001 Akamai wave logo are registered trademarks. Other trademarks contained herein are the U.S. toll-free 877.4AKAMAI property of their respective owners. Akamai believes that the information in this publication (877.425.2624) is accurate as of its publication date; such information is subject to change without notice.