Adobe Pass: Taking TV Everywhere from Concept to Reality
As a company that helps its customers derive business value from creative assets, Adobe was the perfect partner to help broadcast media companies and service providers bring TV Everywhere to market. This model enables broadcasters, cable networks, and pay TV providers to grant subscribers access to content on various digital platforms and through any of a multitude of internet-connected devices.
Challenges and Opportunities
Adobe Pass was launched in 2009 to handle the authentication and authorization challenges posed by TV Everywhere; it allows pay TV subscribers to access programming content at any time, anywhere, on any connected device.
Today, the Emmy-award winning Adobe Primetime pay-TV pass, as it is now called, is the gold standard for TV Everywhere: it powers over 220 sites and apps across multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Web, Xbox, Apple TV and more; it’s integrated with over 260 US operators representing 99% of all US pay-TV households; and it’s used by most US programmers including Turner, Viacom, NBCU, Disney, ESPN, ABC, Fox, NFL, Starz, and dozens of others.
Early on, pay-TV pass focused on building separate native clients for three platforms: iOS, Android, and Flash in browsers for PC. These client APIs were integrated by Adobe’s programming customers into their own applications.
The number of new devices and platforms proliferated with the advent of Apple TV, Xbox, and dozens others, however, and so did the pressure exerted on Adobe to integrate with them. Adobe’s engineering team found it necessary to create new clients for each device and platform–each of which had its own unique requirements.
Anand Phatak, a software architect with the Adobe Primetime team, saw two choices: batch and hack its own APIs to accommodate device inconsistencies and capabilities; or go to a pure web services API with an API management layer that would manage all these complexities for them, keep their APIs clean, and enable customers to plan for new device platforms while Adobe could focus on core capabilities that extend TV Everywhere.
Scale with device proliferation
To quickly and securely help customers address this proliferation of devices, Adobe Primetime pay-TV pass implemented the Apigee Edge digital business platform. Pay-TV pass exposed web service APIs directly to its customers, rather than offering a client API that connects directly to Adobe’s backend. By front-ending its web service APIs through Apigee Edge and decoupling its front and backends, Adobe no longer needs to expose its APIs to each device and manage version compatibility between these devices.
Pay-TV pass has two layers of security around its APIs–the first being through Apigee and the second being Adobe’s own layer. Through security policies on the API, the Apigee layer enables pay-TV pass to pinpoint the origin of traffic, quickly block traffic from specific IP addresses, and secure against DoS attacks.
Real-time data feed
Programming customers have significant ad revenue and brand reputation on the line during live programming and major events, and ensuring a seamless content viewing experience for the consumer is crucial to delivering on these two metrics. Pay-TV pass added a real-time data platform around the transactions running through its service that provides programming customers real-time insights into the health of each Operator integration. This enables Programmers to detect a problem with an Operator and work to mitigate the issue before it affects a large number of consumers and has a significant impact on ad revenue or brand reputation.
Because insights into television viewing patterns are the prized possession of customers and gives them a competitive edge it is important that this data is managed in a secure way that ensures that a given customer receives its data and only its data. While pay-TV pass had the engineering expertise to build this functionality, the out-of-the-box solution with Apigee Edge could provide this faster and would allow pay-TV pass to focus its engineering efforts on where it provides unique value to the market rather than core web services functionality. As such, pay-TV pass exposes the real-time data feed as an API gated with OAuth through the Apigee layer.
Accelerate time to market, increase device reach
Prior to implementing Apigee Edge, one of pay-TV pass’ strategic customers signed a deal with a major operating system and device manufacturer. The customer needed to get its content onto that platform and specific device within seven weeks.
In the middle of the development phase after API design and coding had already been completed, pay-TV pass discovered that the device had a unique requirement that could not be immediately accommodated in pay-TV pass’ own RESTful API layer. Pay-TV pass implemented subsequently implemented Apigee Edge and used its mediation policies to accommodate this new requirement in two days. Without Apigee, this process would have taken several weeks.
Enabling large audiences: 2014 Sochi Olympics & March Madness
Pay-TV pass helped programmers to notch two of the largest TV Everywhere successes in history with the 2014 Sochi Olympics and March Madness.
The Sochi Games were the most watched digital Winter Olympics in history with more than 80 million authenticated streams being delivered to US viewers through their pay-TV subscriptions, and March Madness boasted nearly 70 million live video streams over the course of the tournament, up 42% from the prior year.
During both events, real-time data feeds enabled programmers to proactively identify imminent problems at the onset of the events. The Programmers and Operators corrected the issue before any significant portion of viewers were affected.
Tools like the real-time data feed give Programmers the confidence to support support large audiences through TV Everywhere. Because of this, pay-TV pass can build new value-add features for TV Everywhere that help build viewership and subscriptions to programming content. For instance, pay-TV pass offers a temporary viewing pass that allows consumers to trial TV Everywhere services and access content free for a short period of time before having to authenticate.
“These types of tools are essential if you’re trying to get to television-scale for live and linear programming while maintaining a high quality of service for big audiences,” said Huff.
Mitigate disruption and ensure focus on core capabilities
Before using Apigee Edge, pay-TV pass had to disrupt its development cadence to accommodate customers who all of a sudden needed to expose content to a new device or platform. Now, even if reaching a new device or platform is part of a customer’s long-term roadmap, pay-TV pass can quickly make configuration tweaks on the Apigee layer itself to enable authentication and authorization for the new devices or platforms. This way, the customer is not slowed down, and pay-TV pass engineers can maintain a consistent development cycle.
This enables pay-TV pass to focus on core capabilities like platform-independent application logic that extends the functionality of TV Everywhere in a way that isn't device- or platform-specific.
- Accelerated time to market and helped customer get to a new platform and device quickly
- Mediated unique device requirement in two days instead of several weeks
- Mitigated disruption of engineering development cycle and maintained regular cadence of feature release
- Allowed customers to plan for new devices and enabled pay-TV pass to focus on core capabilities
- Mediation policies to quickly handle unique device and platform requirements
- Security to detect traffic origin, block specific IP addresses, and prevent DoS attacks
- Proxy real-time data feed API gated with OAuth