Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adobe TV: Please, Don't Flash Me!

Adobe's recent announcement that it is offering Flash for your TV (and specifically your set-top box) presents a curious and conflicted look into the multi-platform user experience. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of weaving interactive or conversational elements into broadcasts or on-demand video content, but I certainly don't want to optimize the intrusive nature of ads by giving them more pomp and frequency.

Maybe I'm missing something here. Or maybe not.

Dan Rayburn makes the strong case that this is a neat idea in theory, but the reality is that viewers want high-quality - HD quality - content and Flash is well behind the curve in this department. I tend to agree. There is a ton of mid-tail programming out there (such as cable shows you find on VH1 and the Food Network), all of which are produced affordably, but they are nevertheless well-crafted and viewed in HD. While they are also created for conversations online, these experiences have way more to do with social media utilization than they do an interactive function, meaning that, at the end of the day, function outweighs form.

Now, we do need to look at the other side of this. If Flash, particularly Flash Lite, and the many lingual iterations of the software, can be optimized in such a way that high-definition streams have a better way of reaching our eyeballs, then great. It is also highly conceivable that in-show games, dynamic chat streams and other bells-and-whistles will find better life in this new TV environment. However, we still have to contend with the fact that this presents more ways to throw ad messaging at us, and to even entice us into conversations we may come to find that we didn't really want or need. But I suppose you can say that about anything media-related.

Here's a simple suggestion for the folks at Adobe: whatever you decide to do, make sure that viewers can functionally opt-in or out, depending on the level of interactivity. This will likely become a shared responsibility with the platform and content providers, so don't shirk, because if things go really awry, you can bet that you'll be a little more than guilty by association, and that's never fun, especially in the currently fun but messy world of technology and content. Or the phenomenon we have come to wonder about, known as "branded entertainment".

In the meantime, perhaps we should chalk one up to innovation. Just don't flash me. Not yet, at least.

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