This post originally ran on Re/code
Being a lover of all things tech and media--and an admitted TV fanatic--I was an early adopter of Chromecast, Google's $35 dongle that allows you to use your computer or mobile device to stream content to your TV-- and not just "smart" TVs, any TV with HDMI input--over a Wi-Fi connection.
I love my Chromecast. It's an awesome--inexpensive and portable--device that has already begun changing how we consume content in the living room. That's why I was incredibly excited about Google's recent announcement that it has opened its Chromecast software development kit (SDK) to all developers. Now, any publisher can create an app and stream their content via Chromecast.
This is big news. Why? The Chromecast SDK allows more publishers to take advantage of the popularity and growing ubiquity of the Chromecast dongle and expand the distribution of their digital programming. But it also presents challenges around advertising and monetization. The good news is that technology exists that already integrates with Chromecast that allows publishers to deliver broadcast-quality, ad-supported content without any interruption to a leanback viewing experience. [At Brightcove, we announced our out-of-the-box advertising support for Chromecast with Brightcove Once yesterday].
Before we delve into the advertising challenges though, it's important to understand the evolution of digital distribution and how we arrived here.
First, there was desktop, which has matured into a relatively stable platform with the de facto standard of Flash (until HTML5 grows out of its awkward tween phase). Digital media companies have seen broad success distributing our favorite shows and movies--and live simulcasts and events--on desktops over the last four to five years.
Connected devices and “smart” TVs started to gain traction. But then came Apple’s disruptive moment--the iPad--which stole the “smart” TV thunder and refocused the attention to the mobile form factor and the iOS and Android platforms. Digital media companies have matured their experiences for iOS--to coincide with the rise of the iPad--and have also taken advantage of the Android platform. Despite the hardware and software fragmentation of the Android landscape, its popularity creates an audience that cannot be easily ignored.
Despite all of this, the living room has remained dominated by the "traditional" TV.
It's been challenging for publishers to decide just where to put their dollars and to determine what screens are truly worthy of their content. They've been constrained by smart TV manufacturers that--in an already fragmented market--require adopting proprietary platforms. It's a lot of work for an unknown return.
But, the tide began to turn with the advent of AirPlay and the Apple TV--the first step toward a mobile-centered viewing model where your mobile device orchestrates the display of content on a TV through a portable, Wi-Fi-enabled device connected via HDMI.
Sound familiar? In this new world order, any ole "dumb" TV becomes a "smart" one.
Chromecast took this model even further--not only is it much smaller and only a third of Apple TV’s cost, it supports more than just one platform with iOS, Android and desktop Chrome functionality. And so Chromecast has accelerated publishers' desire to get their content onto all TVs in every living room, creating a leanback experience with a big picture on the big screen but without the big cost.
While Chromecast has tons of promise, and even more so now with the open SDK, the advertising challenges cannot be ignored. First-generation video advertising technology, as well as player-side SDKs that call out to an ad server and try to integrate the ad on the client side, simply won't work with the current Chromecast model.
The unique benefit of the Brightcove Once advertising integration with Chromecast is that it provides a model that injects advertising into the stream directly, and in the cloud, meaning that the Chromecast device doesn’t need complex and hard-to-debug client-side ad integrations with every ad server or ad network. Rather, when the video comes down the pipe to the device, it will just play, regardless of whether it is content or advertisement. This enables not just pre-rolls, but mid-rolls and post-rolls for short-form, long-form and live content. That same approach can be used to deliver full linear channels that play seamlessly like linear TV, but can be personalized and customized to deliver a unique experience for every viewer.
This "Me TV" approach means that publishers can offer a TV-quality experience--for both video on-demand and live video--that also delivers personalized streams, enabling publishers to target digital consumers with a 1:1 content and advertising experience.
Not only can advertising be more targeted, relevant and valuable to both the advertiser and the consumer, but programming can be extended to provide user-contextual content. Imagine if the Super Bowl offered a digital experience--viewing via Chromecast on your TV--that customized the camera angles (field, sidelines, fans) and even advertising based on your team affiliation.
And this level of engagement is only the beginning.
It's not a distant future when publishers can offer an integrated consumer experience across multiple screens--TV and device--simultaneously. While enjoying the Olympics on the big TV screen, for instance, you may have the opportunity to appreciate complementary activity on your tablet that offers you biographical information on the athlete and in-depth commentary on the competitors/weather/course/country or engages you in a social dialogue with other viewers. Or, maybe you can participate in a poll on whom your pick is to bring home the gold.
The end game for the TV and the mobile device is not an either-or scenario; instead, it’s about creating a synchronized and harmonious user experience that maximizes consumption, discovery, monetization and engagement.
Opening up development for Chromecast is a major milestone for streaming services and publishers. For consumers to truly reap the long-term benefits of this access, though, publishers need to embrace consumer behavior. Content personalization and multi-screen advertising models will be the path forward to redefining the future of TV (smart TV, that is).