After Streaming Мedia West, interview with Jan Ozer part I: Players & HTML5

Nov. 25, 2015

A little after his return from Streaming Media West last week, we got hold of Jan Ozer, streaming media author and consultant. Jan delivered two Streaming Media University Workshops and gave a number of presentations in the conference’s regular program. Read what he told Nora Georgieva about the show’s highlights, trends he noticed and what he learned.

Watch an excerpt from the interview, full text below:

Nora: What are the attitudes you noticed toward HTML5 adoption?
Jan: Very few people are currently using DASH. Many are using HTML5 but early adopters of HTML5 aren't using MSE; they are using the video tag, so it's progressive download. 
We're starting to see a lot of people having interest in using HTML5, though. And they're also feeling pressure that Flash is going to be going away, given what happened with Firefox this year1 and given what Google has done with Chrome2. So people are feeling a necessity to start moving away from Flash and are trying to figure out how to do it.

N: In your presentation on Codecs and Packaging, you reviewed a number of players, including Viblast Player. Tell us more.
J: What I really wanted to do with my presentations was to identify the major differentiating characteristics between the players. Why move to a player that needs Flash if the whole point of adopting HTML5 is to move away from Flash dependencies? You should take a look at the player comparison table, which contains more information than can fit on one page:

Browsers and off-the-shelf players comparison

OTS video players browser support and comparison
Republished with permission. Source: Jan Ozer, Streaming Media West workshop "Encoding 2015: Codecs and Packaging for PCs, Mobile and OTT/STB/Smart TVs"

(Jan continues) One thing I learned while I prepared for my Streaming Media West presentations was that the media source extensions (MSE) are not DASH-specific. They are format-agnostic. This means that developers can use MSE to play HLS files, as well as DASH, and some in the industry think that HLS will win out over DASH as the format of choice for HTML5. 

N: Speaking of HTML5 streaming, MSE being a key enabler of the more advanced media capabilities of the browsers, who in your opinion needs to migrate away from Flash and who does not?
J: In terms of who needs Flash, if monetization and DRM protection aren't an issue then I think it's full-speed ahead on MSE [and HTML5]. On the other hand, if monetization and DRM are important, then you can't be an early adopter - I think you have to be a laggard unless you have development teams as large as Netflix or YouTube’s.

Nobody of the top 25 broadcasters I looked at in August used HTML5 for streaming. That’s primarily because the advertising side isn't there yet. And also, back in August, Firefox wasn't ready with MSE & EME (Encrypted Media Extensions). EME is kind of problematical because we've gone from one DRM per plug-in into a separate DRM for each playback environment. In addition, Apple hasn't specified whether they will license FairPlay to companies not named Hulu or Netflix. While I think the industry will adjust, I think EME is very poorly implemented in this regard.

Survey of broadcaster HTML5 adoption

Survey performed in August 2015. Republished with permission. Source: Jan Ozer, Streaming Media West workshop "Encoding 2015: Codecs and Packaging for PCs, Mobile and OTT/STB/Smart TVs"

Then again, if we do this same "current status of broadcasters" table in 18 months, I think it will be very, very different.

If you're beginning a new project today and you don't need advertising support or DRM, you shouldn't use Flash, or obviously not Silverlight. There are different issues, though.

Another good question is, who needs to convert over right away - and what way to go if it's a totally new project. A lot of people have big investments in Flash and Flash is still working. So until something serious happens, such as Chrome or Mozilla taking Flash away, people will continue using it. But I think the writing's on the wall, which means that people are seeing that whether it's because their customers are complaining, or whether it's because the browsers will finally eliminate Flash, it's not going to be a platform you can count on much longer. And you want to be ahead of the curve.

On the other hand, given the this chart (above), there's no browser that’s going to discontinue support for Flash until the networks switch over because they'll lose viewers. People won't be able to watch CNS or ESPN in their browsers.

N: Why aren't people moving to HTML5 given all the uncertainty with Flash?
J: What I'm hearing is that most of the ad inventory isn't HTML5 compatible. Broadcasters have no allegiance to Flash, but I think it's the ad inventory that's not coming together.

In the second part of the interview, Jan Ozer goes over video industry trends and some technologies he took special note of at the show. Endulge yourself!


1 - Referring to Mozilla's disabling Flash in Firefox browser in July due to vulnerabilities.

2 - Referring to Google's rolling out a fix "intelligently" blocking auto-playing Flash elements in Chrome in June this year.