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November 14, 2005

Macromedia: planning for rich content distribution

As part of the ongoing bulking up of the ubiquitous Flash runtime, Macromedia is adding new streaming video capabilities to Flash Server. The company will also announce an alliance with content distribution network Limelight Networks. Macromedia's moves are well-timed, coming as broadband has reached critical mass and, with it, created an aftermarket ideal for Macromedia to focus upon.

By CBR Staff Writer

Macromedia and Limelight Networks have entered into a content distribution deal.

Chris Hock, director of product management for Flash Video, likened the arrangement to RealNetworks’ metamorphosis from streaming audio and video player maker to a content subscription service. For Limelight, the obvious comparison is with the better-known content delivery network Akamai Technologies.

Ironically, content distribution networks were initially associated with the dot com boom, when the need arose to rapidly bulk up web infrastructure for a new medium that came at the time when the perception was the Internet changes everything.

At the time, around 1999 to 2000, the Internet did not change everything because broadband had yet to reach critical mass, and because many early dot com schemes were just that: schemes. But content distribution networks never went away.

Today, broadband has hit critical mass. Penetration in the US is over 50% of all Internet-connected homes, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In some European and Asian countries, broadband penetration rates are even higher.

And with broadband, a new aftermarket for broadcast media, music downloads, and Internet gaming has taken center stage. For instance, Warner Brothers has just announced a new TV Internet service, In2TV.

It’s against this backdrop that Macromedia is scaling up its Flash Media plans. However, unlike Real, Macromedia is not morphing into content distributor. With the agreement with Limelight, it aims to infuse the Flash format as the underlying technology for some of what are expected to be a vast onrush of new Internet entertainment channels intended to break the hegemony of conventional broadcast and cable television.

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Consequently, while Macromedia currently has a two-year subscription available for Flash Media Server 2, it is not going to offer any consumer-based content, such as movies or music, in a subscription service.

As for Flash Media Server, Macromedia first disclosed its plans for the product in September. It offers new features aimed at mass distribution of rich video content, including support of streaming, new higher-quality video codecs, more efficient processing, and, of course, the edge server support behind the Limelight announcement.

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