Brightcove, a Cambridge, MA-based company that specializes in online video provisioning for media companies and content providers (like TUAW and Engadget, for instance), has announced they will officially be supporting HTML5 video for their clients. Unlike Flash, HTML5 video (when encoded using the H.264 standard) will play on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Brightcove's new HTML5 video platform will automatically detect what device the user is running and dynamically switch between Flash and HTML5 players to suit the device's capabilities. For existing Brightcove content providers, all they need to do (assuming their clips are already in H.264 format) is change the embedding code in their webpages to immediately access the HTML5-savvy version. Brightcove automatically encodes each submission in seven different formats & bitrates for optimal client delivery.
Mike Rose spoke with Brightcove's CEO Jeremy Allaire last week, and in the conversation Allaire pointed out "the problem space for most publishers of video is not just about getting content to play back... the expectations for publishers of video have grown to include a lot of different things." The pieces to the video experience (beyond simply pushing pixels to the screen) include player UI, branding, analytics & monetization/ad strategies, to name a few. HTML5 doesn't yet have all the components of the toolkit to enable those features. "Ultimately what's necessary is that the industry needs to have this whole stack... of what people expect in the overall user experience of video, to be accessible and available in the HTML5 world," Allaire said.
That full-featured playback option is what Brightcove Experience for HTML5 is trying to address. According to Allaire, right now there is "a pretty big gap, a lot of infrastructure that needs to be put in place" before all those capabilities are online, but "ultimately the objective is to provide the exact same quality, interactivity and built-in features [as Flash]... for any HTML5-capable device. Publishers want a single workflow to upload their content... that will work seamlessly for all their users." The initial version of the Brightcove tools for HTML5 will provide a basic playback template, but updates later in 2010 will add player template cutomization, advertising tools and analytics. HTML5 support will also work on Android phones.
Right now, only two of Brightcove's customers have signed on to use the HTML5 platform, but those customers are huge: The New York Times and Time, Inc. You can bet that given HTML5's ability to display video on Apple's touch devices, Brightcove's other customers will soon follow suit.
Their other clients read like a Who's Who list of some of the biggest media companies on the planet, including A&E Television Networks, Fox Entertainment Group, Marvel Entertainment, Showtime, Sony Pictures Television International, AOL, Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, Newsweek, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Huffington Post, Times Online, and Chipotle Mexican Grill just to name a few (okay, Chipotle isn't a media company, but they have some damn fine burritos). Some of those media clients are also using Brightcove's iPhone SDK package to integrate their streaming video content directly into their apps, but that's separate from the HTML5 tools.
Is this another ding against Flash? Brightcove's HTML5 platform doesn't replace Flash -- it automatically switches to an HTML5 version of the video when a device isn't detected that can't play Flash, but the goal is to have users (and publishers) not care about whether Flash is present. Allaire has provided a thoughtful analysis of where he thinks the online video market is going (hint: it's a multiformat world), and considering he helped build the original Flash player at Macromedia, he's got some perspective.