Android video mess calls BBC to replace Flash with… Flash

Android fragmentation now appears so bad that the BBC has had to write its own helper application, just to ensure people can continue watching its TV shows.

Adobe deprecated Flash for Android in August, leaving many video operators searching for an alternative distribution technology.

In a lengthy blog post that exposes how content owners are struggling to accommodate the many flavours of Android currently circulated, a reluctant-sounding product manager Chris Yanda explains how the BBC has written a new application, BBC Media Player, based on the Adobe Air framework, that must be downloaded by users and then invoked automatically when they want to watch BBC content on Android.

The BBC has been a firm Adobe client since it signed a 2007 strategic partnership to move its web video from reliance on RealPlayer and Windows Media Player, to embeddable Flash video. This led to a web version of the iPlayer catch-up service, which had previously required episodes be downloaded, and, in turn, the popularisation of UK VOD culture.

With this Android move, the BBC is keeping its Adobe dependence in place but is arguably going back to the bad old days when it required video helper apps on the desktop.

The BBC Media Player application, which must first be downloaded by those who wish to watch BBC video, appears to make the best of a bad situation. BBC’s Yanda writes:

“We are making this change with our eyes open. No technology is perfect. We’ve seen some of the challenges that other Adobe Air based apps have had in the marketplace and so we have worked hard, both internally and with our technology partners to build the best application we can.

“In the end, Flash was still the best choice of media format for us to use. And the only practical technology for us to play this format back on Android is Adobe Air.”