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ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster) goes Microsoft Silverlight

August 21st, 2008 · 2 Comments

UPDATE: Angelo Tilocca has contacted me and has pointed out what we both consider to be a misunderstanding.  To clear it all up, let me quote him in regards to the use of Microsoft and Silverlight by the ABC.

Thanks James.

Confirming that ABC Commercial has launched its integrated ABC Shop
Media Player and its Downloads Manager.

This gives you access to a huge catalogue of ABC related DVD, CD and audio
products to buy or rent in a high quality downloadable format that can be
stored and played back at your convenience, on your home computer.


We have used Silverlight for these applications.

I have no visibility in terms of the broader ABC's use of Microsoft
other than we use Office across the board.

And that we offer WMV and/or Flash Video for all ABC streaming video
services (http://www.abc.net.au/vod/news/).

Trust this clarifies any misunderstanding.


The original Post follows.


I was recently at a conference on “The Business of Digital Content” run by AMIA. I managed to land a seat next to Angelo Tilocca, Manager Content Licensing, ABC. (Australia’s public broadcaster)  As iView was recently released by the ABC allowing viewers to “Catch Up” on shows recently show on the ABC, I asked him about the technology and where the ABC is likely to take it.  Finally, if they planned to use Adobe’s new DRM system and/or the Adobe Media Player (AMP) technology?

Surprisingly the answer was “No, we are going to implement Silverlight for our long terms online strategy.” I picked myself of the floor and asked “WHY?” Angelo Tilocca came back with a comment to the effect that.  Adobe DRM system does not cut it.

I left it there.  I did not want to push it, and really, I did not expect to get this type of information out of him.  If the ABC was going to be using Silverlight in a big way, you would expect it to be a major headline similar to NBC using Silverlight for the Olympics site.

In many ways, this is more controversial as the ABC is an independent organisation. The NBC has historical connections to Microsoft, so it is not surprising to see them adopt Silverlight in such a hi profile site.

The ABC is considered to be the local equivalent of the BBC.  The iView technology follows in the foot steps of the BBC’s iPlayer.  The BBC and the iPlayer have, over the past year, generated some very interesting chatter in the blogosphere.  Especially about the use of DRM.  The BBC was highly criticised for the initial version of the iPlayer was based on Microsoft DRM and as such was restricted to Windows.

The BBC responded to this by re-releasing the iPlayer as a Flash player, initially with On2 proprietary codec, but moved to the new H.264 support now available in adobe flash player.  Still, others criticised this asking why a public broadcaster, who even makes an open source codec called Dirac was not pushing free and open codecs.

Considering the heat the BBC has gotten over these decisions, the ABC is in an interesting position.

Does Adobe DRM Cut it

This decision does point out that Adobe’s online video technology, even as it is so prominent with web video, is not up to scratch when it comes to the requirements for the larger content gatekeepers and their perceived need for DRM. (I am not here to argue the pros and cons of DRM).

Is the Adobe DRM system ready?  Apart from Adobe Media Player (AMP), I have not seen any independent implementations.  And the DRM server has been available for about 6 months now.

Video and DRM is a market Microsoft has been spending big on for years.  Adobe does have its Acrobat DRM type technology, but it’s a different ball game.

Microsoft does have a very large DRM and video streaming product range.  From its products aimed at Cable companies to the new support for Silverlight for Web.  Microsoft would seemingly have a more complete and field tested vision.  Realistically, this is not an a surprising decision, however politically, it could be a bumpy ride.

Microsoft focus

Let me tell a story about Microsoft’s priorities.

In my company we sell e-Cinema digital playback systems used for art house or new form media (Operas) in Cinemas.  A recent contract with the US lead us to require encryption of content.  The US company had already developed a system using Microsoft DRM but wanted to jump onto our technology as it was superior in many ways.

At the start, we both tried to contact Microsoft for a DRM SDK for implementation of it into our technology.  One would expect, as the US partner had already spend a lot of time and development on this and wanted to go forward, that Microsoft would be ready to help.

Microsoft ignored all attempts to contact their key people from Australia, and eventually from our partners in the US, trying to go contact DRM department directly.

This show how focused they are on Silverlight and the future of Video and DRM. Everything else is on the back burner for now.

In the end, we developed our own proprietary encryption system. c’est la vie.

Tags: Adobe · codecs · DRM · flash · IPTV · Microsoft · Silverlight

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Avatar // Aug 26, 2008 at 9:41 am

    great report. but i am not surprised with they going for Silverlight. it is not just the DRM. it also the tech they use to save bandwidth and the performance gains Silverlight got against flash. this having in consideration that silverlight 2.0 final should be 10% more efficient than SL 2.0 beta 2. quite impressive considering it was already efficient.

  • 2 ubiquitous // Jun 10, 2009 at 1:04 am

    You’d probably have to ask people like Frank Arrigo (who may have no idea nowadays, having moved onwards and upwards) and Chris Winter, who may have more visibility over these types of things than Angelo.

    That said,

    You’ll note that in more recent “freeview” STB Advertisements (http://www.jbhifi.com.au/home-theatre/video-recorders/) , (freeview having an integral relationship to ABC; http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24730277-7582,00.html ) incorporate dual tuners, storage and other “pvr” functionality.

    Over DVB-SI, meta-data can be sent to compliant STB’s. this metadata can include XML Strings, or TVA CRID Values. (mind, there are a couple of IETF Ratified methods)

    Utilising this methodology, its not a far leap to include ethernet into these STB’s. (in fact, many already do…)

    From a content perspective, its important to maintain consistancy with existing standards, such as DVD, Blu-RAY and MHP / MHEG5, etc.

    Within specifications such as Blu-Ray, includes requirements for H.264, VC1 and MPEG2. Whilst many STB Specifications also include AJAX, XML and HTML 4.01 browser support.

    In past, many Embedded OS Browser Stacks (with the exception of the OPERA for Devices) did not include Flash.

    As such; for a broadcaster who may have a view towards incorporating On-Demand “mediaguides” for STB’s (including TiVo’s) its may be seen important to ensure their STB’s interface stacks do not require Macromedia Flash.

    But then, i’m not really upto date with the politics in this area. I just hope their progressing towards better solutions for the overall lifecycle of related content industries, and the people involved throughout.

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