Are Publishers Ready to Embrace the iPad — Without Ads or Analytics?

With the launch of the Apple (s AAPL) iPad just a few days away, many web video publishers are already getting ready for the device by rolling out new video pages that will support HTML5 web video delivery. But delivery is the easy part — once a video is transcoded into the necessary H.264 format, anyone can transfer an HTTP file to the device through progressive download. What’ll be more difficult for web video publishers is tracking how many viewers watched videos on the iPad, and actually monetizing those videos.

The problem is that HTML5 is still in its infancy, and as a result heavily lags behind Adobe (s ADBE) Flash for features that many video publishers already take for granted. Adobe and members of the Flash video ecosystem have spent the last several years building out tools to improve in-stream advertising, real-time video analytics and other features, which many media companies now consider “table stakes” for publishing in today’s web video world. But as a nascent web standard, HTML5 falls well short in many of the areas that publishers depend on.

On the reporting and analytics side, there are very few good solutions for measuring web video usage in HTML5. This is true particularly for videos delivered via progressive download, in which case publishers will be unable to measure how much of a certain video a user watched. Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, which provides reporting and analytics for Brightcove and other customers, admits that the industry isn’t yet up to speed on measuring HTML5 video. But he doesn’t think that will stop media companies from pushing video to the device.

“Why would companies put their video out there without measurement? Remember that there weren’t video analytics until recently and that didn’t stop companies from using video. I think media companies are sufficiently excited about the iPad to launch sans analytics, particularly when this is on our roadmap and Brightcove publishers will have them soon enough,” Wilson wrote in an email to NewTeeVee.

Lack of monetization, however, could be a bigger problem. Since the vast majority of today’s video ad creative is created in Flash, publishers have to find ways to switch the ads into a supported format — in the case of the iPad, that would mean H.264-encoded HTML5 video. But even if the ad supports HTML5, there are no standards for dynamic ad insertion. Furthermore, there’s no good way to create a call to action within the ad or video player, which reduces the amount of interactivity that is available for video ads on the iPad.

Until a vendor or technology solution emerges to fill the gap, it will be very difficult for publishers to recoup the costs of web video delivery, writes thePlatform VP of marketing Marty Roberts. In the meantime, publishers who do plan to deliver web videos on the iPad through HTML5 will most likely be monetizing those assets through ads that have been stitched into the videos beforehand, or through companion banner ads that run alongside them.

While HTML5 in general lags the maturity of Flash, there are already some tools available for dynamic ad insertion and analytics for HTML5 web video delivery. Mobile video platform provider mDialog, for instance, says it can deliver video ads on the fly by using Apple’s HTTP-based adaptive bit-rate streaming for ad insertion. In fact, Greg Philpott, founder and CEO of mDialog, says the technology will be the enabler for any advance advertising or analytics that come from the iPad via HTML5 delivery.

“Adaptive gives the viewer a better experience, but it also gives the publisher and advertiser the ability to build tools around better analytics and ad insertion,” Philpott said in a phone interview.

Content delivery network Limelight (s LLNW) also offers a universal mobile delivery suite called LimelightREACH, which it says can dynamically deliver ads onto any video-capable mobile device, including the iPad. The service, which Limelight acquired through its purchase of mobile video firm Kiptronic last May, also uses Apple’s adaptive-bit rate streaming protocol for ad insertion and fine-grained video analytics.

While there are some solutions for monetization and reporting today, it will be a long time before HTML5 reaches parity with the feature set that Flash has already built out. “Obviously Flash is much more full-featured than HTML5 today, and it’ll take at least two years for HTML5 to get to where Flash is,” Jonathan Cobb, CTO for mobility solutions at Limelight, said in a phone interview. In the meantime, publishers will have to decide how important it is for them to be on the iPad without those features.

Related content on NewTeeVee: The iPad Will Usher In a New Era of HTML5 Video

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