Is Brightcove the Next Flash?


It was just a few years ago that Adobe’s (s ADBE) Flash revolutionized video publishing by enabling media companies to reach a vast number of consumers with a plugin that ensured a consistent rich media experience across multiple operating systems and browsers. Now, Brightcove might be at the forefront of the next revolution of video publishing, as those companies face a new challenge: how to publish video on multiple devices, all of which have different software support and different encoding requirements.

Of course, at the center of both shifts is Jeremy Allaire, who spearheaded the creation of Flash video while CTO of Macromedia. At that time, Flash solved a significant problem for publishers. With its help, it didn’t matter whether you were serving video in Internet Explorer, Firefox or another browser, so long as the Flash plugin was installed, that multimedia experience would be the same regardless of the actual setup.

Now, Allaire says Brightcove is helping to solve a similar problem for video publishers: how to deal with the complexity of publishing video in an ecosystem where the old Flash model of using a single browser plugin for multiplatform video delivery is broken. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple’s (s AAPL) insistence on not supporting Flash on the iPhone or the iPad, media companies that want to deliver video to those devices need to also be able to support HTML5 and H.264 encoding.

And there are indications that more complexity is on its way. Google (s GOOG) is expected to open-source its VP8 video codec later this month, providing an alternative to H.264 and the open-source Ogg Theora codec. With support in Google’s Chrome browser, as well as Firefox and Opera, VP8 could become the codec of choice for the open source crowd. VP8 could also be used for video delivery in Android smartphones and in upcoming Google TV products, which are expected to run on the Android operating system.

But it’s doubtful that Apple will adopt VP8, as the company has already made big bets on H.264 and a recent email from Steve Jobs warns that patent pools might be going after Ogg Theora and other open-source codecs in the future. Microsoft (s msft), too, has said it will only support H.264 in the next version of its web browser, Internet Explorer 9.

With that in mind, publishers need to either pick and choose which devices, codecs and plugins they’re going to support, or they need to find a way to deliver to all of them with minimal investment in encoding, delivery and development. In other words, it’s almost like 2004 all over again, when media companies had to choose between serving video in Windows Media Player, RealPlayer or Apple Quicktime — all of which had varying levels of adoption across different operating systems, not to mention varying levels of video quality and usefulness.

Allaire noted in a dinner meeting with the press last night that it was Flash that helped bridge the divide between the different browsers and operating systems back in the day. Ironically, he said, what Brightcove does now is reduce the complexity for video publishers wishing to reach multiple platforms and devices.

So in this new generation of video publishing, it’s not a plugin or the application that will solve the problem of how to reach consumers on various devices, but the publishing platform itself. It’s Brightcove and other video management and platforms like it that will help to drive more video across more devices — and they’ll be doing so whether those devices support Flash, HTML5 video encoded in H.264, Ogg Theora, VP8 or any other codec.

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Len Feldman

Brightcove isn’t going to be the next Flash, for two reasons:

1) The multiple platform support role that Brightcove performs isn’t unique–other Online Video Providers do the same thing–and as the market moves to HTML5, the need to support dozens of different delivery platforms will decrease.

2) Flash is far more than video; it’s an interactive content and application development platform. Brightcove doesn’t do that.

I have no doubt that Brightcove will continue to be a successful OVP and will add value in a variety of ways, but it won’t take over the role that Flash has.

Tom Morgan

What i’m not clear on and I’m not sure this article covers, so perhaps someone can tell me…If Brightcove etc wish to become a de-facto platform aggregator across multiple platforms/devices how are they planning to tackle DRM support across these multiple platforms?

Wow Logic

DRM is another point of integration which Brightcove has proven efficient at. You could make that argument about any company as no one today is providing ubiquitous DRM across all platforms.

Tom Morgan

@wowLogic to be fair, it wasn’t an argument, it was a question! Thanks though, i think you confirm what i was thinking, i.e. The ubiquity of DRM is still an open question and Brightcove have yet to solve it.

Zacqary Adam Green

Okay, so…Brightcove does what exactly?

They “reduce the complexity for video publishers wishing to reach multiple platforms and devices”? Mind telling us how they do that, or is this trying to be the Donnie Darko of tech blog posts, in that one has to Google incessantly in order to understand what the hell was just communicated?


Do People who seem to understand all this, not understand “content driven advertisement engines”…



I have to second that this title is a little much, anyone offering an on-demand video platform can transcode video to a variety of formats for a variety of devices. That doesn’t make it an ecosystem, which Flash has been. Brightcove has a great service but all they are is a white label player provider, they’re not an underlying medium for content creation on the web.



Brightcove and Flash have nothing in common except, apparently, Allaire’s brain.

In fact, I suspect that the move to a Flash-less world scares the heck out of Brightcove as the remaining components (transcoding, streaming) become highly commoditized for the masses, and the domain of high end vendors (Cisco, Juniper, et al) for service providers.

Kudos to Allaire for getting you to bite on this puff piece.


In just the past few weeks, it seems like this has become a real question. All of the major content players (including Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) are pushing various formats across an fast-growing number of devices. Getting video to your audience is now 10x more complex than it was 6 months ago.

Seems like Brightcove is sitting in the catbird’s seat on this one. Wonder if Google wishes they had pulled the trigger on an acquisition last year when they apparently had the chance.

If you don’t have access to the content, delivering ads is much harder. Interested to see how this plays out over the next few weeks.


We really need an open source video codec standard for the web. Hopefully Google will give that in VP8 and convert as much of YouTube over to it and force the issue with the other browsers to support it. Browsers can support multiple codecs but to support only one, like H.264, sends a loud message of trying to force a proprietary format on the world for personal gains. I don’t think the world as a whole is going to bite on that apple.

Steve Jobs

Really? You really believe the drivel that Jeremy is so good at dishing out and offer it up here as insightful reporting?

Just ask any number of Brightcove customers and you will hear loudly that his platform has serious scalability, performance and reliability issues. It is a low- to mid-end system that just won’t scale to do the job of Flash video servers and clients across the Internet – a highly unrealistic proposition!

How ironic that you declare Brightcove to be the “next Flash” when the page this appears on is surrounded by Brightcove ads on your site? Talk about hypocrisy and selling out! Shame on you.

Ryan Lawler

Steve, based on your IP address, I see you’re now based in Waltham, Mass. Is that a recent move?

But to your question about editorial independence: Brightcove has been an on-and-off sponsor of sites that I’ve written for for years, but that’s never stopped me from taking a shot at them or questioning their strategic plan in the past. I call ’em like I see ’em.

Anyway, they’re not the only video distribution company taking on this issue, but they’re the one with highest profile… And Jeremy’s links to both Flash and Brightcove in trying to overcome these problems makes it an interesting corollary.

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