When technological factors such as bandwidth, client device capabilities, and media format compatibility limit the ability of publishers to deliver an acceptable consumer experience, digital media distribution and monetization solutions must be highly optimized to provide a competitive offering. This was the situation in the early days of digital video on the web, and the solutions that provided the best consumer experience were generally vertically integrated and highly proprietary (e.g. Brightcove). Tight vertical integration was necessary to deliver the best performance given the constraints of the technology available. As the underlying layers of the technology stack matured—mass availability of broadband internet, the commoditization of content delivery networks, de facto media format standards, and the ubiquity of Adobe Flash on every browser—fully integrated vertical solutions were no longer necessary to deliver the experience consumers demanded. Publishers were able to choose best of breed solutions at each layer of the stack.
As digital video moves on to wireless mobile devices, the natural effect of these forces is seen once again. Early technological constraints favor tightly integrated solutions that squeeze maximum performance out of the contributing systems. As the infrastructure advances and standards emerge, publishers have options that don’t require a single-vendor solution. Perhaps no recent advancement is more significant than the emergence of the Apple iPhone on the mobile scene. The capabilities of this class of device and underlying services set the stage for a new phase of mobile digital video, one where control moves out of the hands of single-point solution providers and into a more open field.
Next I'll look at how these factors open the door for carrier-independent, over-the-top mobile video and the implications for vendors who play in that space.