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Going Native: Taking Online Video Where Flash & HTML5 Can't Go

Going Native: Taking Online Video Where Flash & HTML5 Can't Go

This week we announced the full commercial availability of our new native video players for iOS and Android and the discontinuation of our App Cloud HTML5 hybrid app solution. We are increasing our investments in deeper and broader native frameworks and developer tools for premium video apps.

What’s the big deal?

At first glance, when people hear about third-party native video players for iOS and Android, they often ask, "Don't those platforms already have video players?" Likewise, when browser makers announced support for the HTML5 video tag, people said, "Great, now we don’t need Flash and we can publish great video without a full player solution."

Going back even further, when we first started pitching Brightcove's online video platform (OVP) back in 2005, people asked, "Doesn't Flash already easily play video and can't I just use Flash to make it look how I want it and be done?"

In essence, the same questions that were asked about video publishing are being asked again about HTML5 and native apps.

The answer, of course, is that in all three cases rudimentary APIs are available to access video from a URL for playback in a browser or native app. And that's about all they do.

Rise of Video Player Platforms

Operating a premium media business requires more than a video file and a screen to render it on. Video players like Brightcove's enable publishers to get real business value out of their content by providing a full stack for premium video, including:

  • Full customization of the player's design, look and feel, chrome, and presentation of video content;
  • Features for adding interactivity, such as overlays, calls to action, and hooks into social media;
  • Plumbing to ensure a high quality of service for video of any length, delivered over any Internet connection;
  • Complete engines for orchestrating and inserting ads inside and around video, including integrations into the most important ad platforms and networks;
  • Real-time event tracking and reporting systems to capture meaningful data about how users view and interact with video content, along with the ability to feed that information into every leading analytics and audience measurement platform; and
  • Security frameworks that protect content from tampering or stealing.

It's this stack of features that helped to drive the growth of the OVP industry. By building a consistent foundation for video playback, companies like Brightcove made delivering video something lots of businesses could do, rather than just a few specialists.

When Brightcove launched its OVP, Flash was the name of the game, providing the foundation that worked best across the fragmented world of browsers and operating systems. But the rapid rise of iOS devices, which don’t support Flash, effectively doubled the complexity of video delivery. Not only did they need all the same features as before; now they had to test and automate them on the vast number of distinct HTML5 video implementations.

Meanwhile, instead of being pushed aside by cross-platform HTML5 experiences, native apps actually grew in importance. For premium media publishers in particular, whose users expect the highest fidelity, highest performance, and most robust experience possible on phones and tablets, only native apps could provide the quality and depth the market demanded.

Time to get serious about native apps

The video world is becoming more fragmented, not less. For publishers, being able to target both Flash and HTML5 is just the tip of the iceberg. Native apps are becoming more critical than ever—especially as iOS and Android-based apps will likely become the foundations for Smart TV apps that combine touch tablet and TV experiences into a single app that a user can install from the app store. That's going to transform the way people consume not only video, but a whole new world of interactive dual-screen experiences. It will also create huge opportunities for publishers who can keep up. The need for a native player stack that just works is more urgent than ever.

While the players provided in iOS and Android are a good foundation, they are just as fragmented by device, platform, version, and format as HTML5 solutions have been, and they fall far short of a full stack. At Brightcove, we see our role as both smoothing out inconsistencies and hard-to-diagnose "gotchas" across native app platforms, and complementing the basic functionality of players provided with iOS and Android with the complete OVP-style capabilities required for professional-level online video.

The more resources we put behind our native players and development tools, the more excited we get about the results. Our new native video players push the state of the art in video apps for phones and tablets, and the work we're doing with major media and broadcast partners is already yielding tremendous innovation that will hopefully become part of many more of our customers' apps. We will keep pushing in that direction, moving rapidly toward the day when video extends fully, in all of its visual glory, across the open Internet and onto TV screens all around the world.

It's a great time to be in online video.