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HBO Gets Flashy With Adobe for 'TV Everywhere'

HBO will provide encrypted video to distribution partners for “TV Everywhere”-style services using Adobe Systems' Flash multimedia platform, although the premium programmer said it's amenable to working with other Internet-video technologies.

HBO's broadband-video complement for TV subscribers, dubbed HBO Go, will use Flash and the Adobe-developed encrypted Real-Time Messaging Protocol, referred to as “RTMPE,” HBO chief technology officer Bob Zitter said in an interview.

“The Flash player is relatively ubiquitous across PCs and Macs,” Zitter said. “It was important to us to make this offering work on Macs as well as PCs.”

At the same time, HBO will work with other Web video systems that distributors are implementing before TV Everywhere is fully implemented, and which would let any cable, satellite or telco TV customers access content from any participating site. “If the distributor wants to use a different security wrapper, that will be up to them,” Zitter said.

HBO — which has a reputation as a technology leader in the cable world — last month said it will participate in Comcast's 5,000-home nationwide trial of On Demand Online. That will give HBO subscribers in the beta test access to full-length episodes of original series like True Blood, The Wire and The Sopranos, as well as movies including Transformers and The Dark Knight.

For the trial, Comcast will use the adaptive-rate Internet video player from Move Networks, with video provided via its Fancast and portals. Zitter said HBO enlisted consultants to assess the Move Networks player, and he said the technology is “encrypting the content to our satisfaction.”

“As we roll out HBO Go, we're working through the technical aspects on a bilateral basis with the distributor that we're working with,” Zitter said. Having a common Internet-video platform across the industry “may have some value,” he said, but noted that HBO's main interest is that what distributors are using “is secure and robust, and we have the right to approve that.”

In March, HBO and two other Time Warner Inc. companies — Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros. Entertainment — announced a strategic alliance with Adobe to develop “next-generation video” across multiple distribution platforms.

Initially, the video for HBO Go will be in standard-definition resolution, encoded with the MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding standard compression format. “HD is something we're contemplating,” Zitter said.

HBO, in a test with Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin division initiated in January 2008, used Microsoft's Windows Media digital rights-management system. However, Zitter said, Microsoft does not have a cross-platform DRM approach for streaming video.

“When we begin to offer downloads [via HBO Go], which is not in 2009 but is on our road map, we will make a separate decision for [encryption] technology,” Zitter said.

He added that HBO has used digital-video “fingerprinting” technologies for several years to identify when the programmer's content is being misappropriated on the Internet.