Web-based video is an important technology for the Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG). WDIG is the primary provider of internet services for The Walt Disney Company, and our sites have proven to be a vital new channel for the company's video entertainment products, including movies, television shows and clips, promotions, and product information.
We believe that standardization of web-based video and related technologies will primarily benefit non-commercial producers and users of video. WDIG, like other commercial entertainment companies, is in the business of creating compelling online experiences, and our goals may at times conflict with the accessibility and openness that standards encourage. For instance, it is likely that online video will most often be presented to our users as part of rich internet applications, and thus, the video will not be addressable directly via URL like a web page can be today. Much of our content will remain protected by copyright for the forseeable future, and so the benefits of exposing our online video as "first-class objects" on the web are less clear than for organizations such as educational institutions, government and non-profits. However, we do see the benefits of standardization in many areas and appreciate the opportunity to participate in the W3C web-based video working group.
WDIG currently uses five primary content delivery models for online video:
The two models most commonly used within Disney today are ad-supported short and long form content using HTTP, Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), and Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP).
Short form content is typically 3-5 minutes in length, and is used primarily as an adjunct to traditional media content delivery. Users access clips and previews of long form content embedded within our entertainment focused web sites such as ESPN.com, ABC.com and Disney.com. The purpose of these clips is to entice viewers to watch full length movies in the theatre and broadcast shows on television or online. Clips are often provided in groups in a playlist that automatically plays on a site page (e.g. ESPN, ABC, ABCNews, Disney.com).
Long form content consists primarily of full-length television episodes. We have a number of products that deliver long form content, some using HTTP and some using RTSP. For long form content, we offer a more tv-like entertainment experience compared to the short-form experience, often supporting full-screen views of content and more sophisticated controls (e.g. ABC.com's full episode player). Long form content is also available for paid download. For example, the ABC full episode television shows that are available for free and ad supported, are also available for download via iTunes.
Online video is steadily increasing in use in all of our online businesses, and we anticipate that this trend will continue. The increasing use of online video drives our technology and business strategy in many areas, including:
While we do offer content for paid download or subscription (e.g. for some live events), advertising is an important revenue source for online video. Advertising consists both of ads embedded within the video, as well as traditional web advertising such as banners located in the player window.
As an important source of revenue for our online products, advertising is vital to our strategy for video on the web, and drives technology development in a number of important ways:
Standardization for advertising in online video will likely continue to be driven by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) through guidelines and standards such as the recently published guidelines for RIAs.
We optimize distribution of our online video content through use of partners. Currently we partner with multiple content delivery networks to deliver content. Because of cost, working with our CDN partners and various ISPs to utilize the most efficient technologies to distribute content is vital to the success of our business. CDN and content delivery optimization technologies are evolving, and we will continue to look for new options to get video content to our consumers. Evolving business models and technology development will keep this market in flux for some time to come.
The drivers for choice of format for online video at WDIG are pervasiveness of player capabilities and quality of service. For those reasons, we are currently using primarily Flash video (streaming video or FLV downloads) and the VP7 On2 Codec. While Flash Video is not a standard video compression format and container in the same way that MPEG and MP4 are standard, we consider Flash a "de-facto" standard because of its pervasive use on the internet. We would not recommend that the W3C standardize a particular compression format or container; rather, that standards work should focus on the web technologies associated with displaying video content, continuing existing standards work such as Rich Web Clients, SMIL, Timed Text, etc.
Player frameworks and containers are used within our environment to aid in development of video applications and integration with our internal systems. Ultimately, the framework for developing online video products enables consistency in the development techniques used by our programmers and web producers, the user experience, and tracking and reporting. This technology is still undergoing rapid technology advances and the benefit to our business for standardizing in this area at this time is not clear.
Two areas that could benefit from standardization include the methods used to embed video in web pages and capture system events, and the creation and management of the video controls. Guidelines and standardization in these areas would improve accessibility and the consistency of the user experience, and provide standard structure for video objects available on the web, make those objects more available to search engines, etc.
A simple metadata standard for describing online video that is more encompassing of online video properties than pure Dublin Core, and is simpler than a standard like MPEG-7, would be useful in our environment. Many of the existing video metadata standards, like MPEG and MXF, focus on the production attributes of the video, rather than attributes more appropriate to managing video in a web publishing workflow environment. Likewise, an ontology specifying meaning of attributes specific to web-based video production, publishing, asset management and search would better enable the development of technologies related to these activities. However, domain-specific taxonomies and ontologies independent of the content type will be necessary to augment video-specific schemas in order to support categorization, asset management, and search.
Application specific metadata that is used to control the delivery of the video and the behavior of an application is a more difficult area for standardization. Much of this metadata is tightly integrated with applications, which are a key differentiator for businesses. For non-profits and educational institutions, there may be some benefit in looking at areas for standardization in rich media applications, and the key building blocks for these applications to deliver video are already in place, including standards such as RSS and video formats such as MPEG and Flash.
We anticipate that managing use policies for content will become a vital part of managing and providing video content on the web. Our products primarily offer copyrighted video content, but there are many sources of video content on the web that require more flexible use policies, and these policies require management and integration with legal systems. Tracking how, when and where content protected by copyright and license, such as Creative Commons licensing, is used, is a growing concern among those offering content on the web, and this may be an area where the W3C can provide guidance.
For all organizations that deliver video on the web, cost of delivery is a key consideration in making content available to end users. For commercial media and entertainment companies like Disney, where revenue is directly tied to user experience through ad impressions and user engagement, quality of service requires that we spend more on delivery. Therefore, we will always be looking at new technologies that reduce that cost, while keeping the user experience and quality of service high.
As the demand for web-based video grows, looking at IP and web protocols for delivery of video, and other new technologies in this space, is important for the W3C. At this time, we do not recommend that the W3C standardize a particular delivery methodology for online video; however, research in the areas of differentiated service delivery technology, multi-cast support, innovative uses of existing protocols for video delivery, IPTV, and the development of new transport protocols is important to track.