Brightcove Introduces Native Video Players For iOS And Android, Will Discontinue HTML5-Based Hybrid Approach

Brightcove, one of the leading cloud content delivery providers in the world, today announced an end to a major experiment, and the start of something new for its mobile video app platform. The company says it is shuttering its HTML5-based App Cloud efforts, which took a hybrid approach to creating mobile video apps that worked across platform using open web standards, and switching to a native player approach targeting Android and iOS device specifically.

The new native player solution was almost a necessity, according to Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire. In an interview, he described how a native player option is something that the mobile industry is missing, in the same way the web was missing a true video content delivery platform, complete with end-to-end tools to handle not only  video hosting, but content protection, engagement tracking, monetization and other features.

Allaire said that while it may seem like people are doing just fine handling video playback in mobile apps as it stands, the situation is actually a lot like what we saw in the web-based video world back when Brightcove started its business. Which means people are home coding most of the functions, especially around audience measurement, content protection and all those other capabilities that premium media companies with video-focused products are looking for. Accordingly, Brightcove saw an opportunity to deliver a solution that offers all of that, with the improved performance of a truly native solution.

Alongside the launch, Brightcove is also announcing the sunsetting of their existing, HTML5-based hybrid native platform for mobile video apps. It’ll still continue to operate for existing customers until June 2014, but Brightcove is looking to transition everyone to the new native platform, which Allaire says is just a better option, both for his company and its clients, in the long run.

“We, like a lot of the industry, undertook a fairly sizable experiment with this idea of hybrid native apps, and this idea of ‘write an app with HTML5, compile it in a native container, you’re good to go it’ll work on everything,'” Allair explained over the phone. “And what we learned is that in particular when you’re talking about premium media, HTML5 wasn’t cutting it. Our customers and the agencies that build apps were all pretty consistently saying ‘this needs to be native,” and that actually led to the development of our native apps.”

Like Facebook and other companies before it, Brightcove has found that while HTML5 has some clear benefits on mobile as a way to reach everyone with a single set of code, it has trade-offs, especially with media-rich services, that were really hampering industry adoption.

“We also reached the conclusion that the hybrid native path is much slower to take than people expect,” Allaire said. “We don’t see a business in it on a scale out basis, we do see a huge business in native apps, and premium media native apps, and that’s what we’re trying to do more of with video cloud.”

The new native video app SDKs will be available to all of Brightcove’s premium subscribers, and Allaire says the company is also working on offering the native player separate from its cloud hosting solution, though there’s no timeline for when exactly that will become available. He also noted that even if companies are still using a cross-platform, HTML5 based hybrid approach with their app via tools like Appcelerator Titanium, they can still easily incorporate the new native player SDKs into their builds.

There’s a growing trend of developers and companies with specific needs walking away from HTML5 as a viable alternative to native on mobile. It definitely helps that iOS and Android have emerged as the clear dominant platforms, especially for native app development, which means it’s easier to focus development efforts, but there’s also a constant refrain of “HTML5 is good, but not amazing.” Brightcove is counting on the fact that for companies whose business is pretty much delivering a great mobile video experience, a no-compromise approach is the right bet.