Netflix: No Plans for HTML5 Video

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Don’t expect Netflix to start supporting HTML5 video playback anytime soon, according to the company’s cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft. That’s because without a good way to protect the streaming video available through its Watch Instantly service, the company won’t be able to make content available using the nascent web standard.

Cockcroft yesterday wrote with some excitement on his personal blog about Netflix’s plans to begin using HTML5 in its codebase, which some news outlets took to mean HTML video. But in an update to his post, Cockcroft says that not only are HTML5 video plans not in the works, but that the web standard lacks the tools necessary to protect the streaming video content. As he explains:

“I was thinking of HTML5 features that let us build very cool user interfaces with drag-and-drop, canvas transforms etc. for the web site, and for embedded TV devices specifically. The Silverlight player is used for PC/Mac playback only, and the basic HTML5 Video doesn’t have a viable DRM solution at this point.”

Netflix relies on DRM providers such as Irdeto and Widevine to help it protect streaming content as it’s being delivered to PCs and other connected devices. Without such protection, the subscription video company wouldn’t be able to get the rights to content available through its Watch Instantly streaming service, so supporting a format without the necessary tools in place would be a bad move on Netflix’s part.

Netflix is hardly alone in its concern over the maturity of the HTML standard, particularly as it pertains to streaming video. Last week, in a blog post about new features that Hulu was rolling out, VP of Product Eugene Wei wrote that HTML5 video playback would not be included. In particular, Wei cited the lack of content security, advertising and reporting tools available for HTML5 video as reasons for not supporting the web standard.

But other video publishers are showing more willingness to use the HTML5 video tag — whether the supporting tools are ready or not. Due to demand for video on the iPad, companies like CBS have big plans for making their content available using HML5 video and H.264 encoding. In a video interview with NewTeeVee, CBS Interactive GM Anthony Soohoo said that CBS.com would have the entire slate of web video available on PCs also available on the iPad.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: How Startups Can Cash In On the iPad’s Weaknesses (subscription required)

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