Google hopes to attract a flood of programmers and studios to its Chromecast platform following the recent release of a software development kit, but a near-term challenge ahead for many of them is how to smoothly splice ads into video streams that are ticketed for the popular $35 streaming adapter.
One company that’s trying to take on that challenge head-on is Brightcove, which last week debuted Chromecast optimizations for “Once,” a system that stitches ads into video streams back in the cloud before they make their way to Chromecast.
That device-agnostic, cloud-based approach, said Brightcove chief technology officer A.J. McGowan, can help to overcome some inherent issues the Google Chromecast architecture presents that make in-stream ad splicing a technical challenge.
That architecture relies on a sender app on the phone or tablet that communicates with the receiver app on the Chromecast itself. The approach has helped Google to cost-reduce the Chromecast, but the lack of processing in the device itself also makes it harder for it to juggle multiple streams without producing a “jarring” effect as the ads are digitally inserted into the main content, McGowan explains.
Instead of leaning heavily on device processing and device-side code, Brightcove contends that its Once platform, which was born out of its recent $49 million acquisition of online video ad insertion tech vendor Unicorn Media, can ease the ad insertion process and deliver a higher-quality experience as more premium video becomes available via the Chromecast.
By doing the heavy lifting in the cloud, the content and the inserted ads makes everything look like a single stream to the Chromecast. Creating this “broadcast-style playback” will create a driver for more premium content providers to target the Chromecast, McGowan predicts.
“We’ve been working with Google behind the scenes on this,” McGowan said, adding that a number of Brightcove’s customers are developing for the Chromecast.
He declined to identify them, but ESPN, NBC News and The Weather Channel are among programmers that use Once to deliver ads to a range of devices and screens. Other Brightcove customers include AMC, Lifetime Networks, Starz, Turner Broadcasting, Fox, Showtime, Discovery Communications, and Virgin Media.
Google Chromecast is currently optimized for Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Pandora, YouTube, Google Play TV & Movies, Google Play Music, Vevo, Red Bull.TV, Songza, Plex, PostTV (videos from The Washington Post), Viki, and RealPlayer Cloud. Users can also cast a Chrome browser tab from their PCs or laptops to the TV. That content menu, which pales versus the 1,200-plus apps and “channels” offered on the Roku platform, is expected to expand rapidly following the release of the Chromecast SDK by Google earlier this month.