Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE) hasn’t been in the news all that much recently. Its last big run of headlines took place during the 2010-2011 battle with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) over Adobe’s Flash player for mobile devices, a fight that Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs took very personally, seeing Flash as a threat to his company’s growing mobile empire. Apple won that one, with Adobe shutting down development on its mobile browser Flash Player in late 2011.
This was a rather ignominious defeat for a company that had worked closely with Apple for decades, revolutionizing the desktop printing industry with Postscript fonts and its Illustrator computer drawing software. Adobe released Photoshop — the long-time industry leader for photo editing software in 1989 (initially a Mac-exclusive) — and followed this up with the PDF standard for digital documents in 1993.
Adobe’s big grab for the increasingly web-centric world was its 2005 purchase of Macromedia, a $3.4 billion acquisition that gave it a slew of web content creation tools as well as ownership of Flash, the technology that introduced animation, interactivity and multimedia-rich content to websites. It also earned the wrath of Apple’s Jobs, who felt that Flash was an outdated resource hog with security issues.
Despite the many ups and downs of the technology sector — including direct setbacks like the Flash battle — Adobe has weathered them all, always eventually emerging stronger than ever. During the recession, its stock took a serious hit as sales fell, and between August 2008 and January 2009, Adobe shed around 60% of its value. There was talk of it becoming an acquisition target itself, with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple and Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPQ) among the potential suitors.
However, despite the Flash setback, Adobe recovered. Moves like the April 2012 launch of its subscription-based Creative Cloud service helped boost revenue by attracting users who had previously balked at Photoshop’s steep price tag, while Adobe Marketing Cloud went after professionals with analytics, ad-optimization and social media tools. Up 20% in 2013 alone, the company is now closing on its all-time high near $48, set back in 2007.
Given the methodical way in which Adobe has stayed on top of content creation and management, from the laser printer and PC to the photos used in print and digital media to digital documents and websites, it’s not really a surprise that it’s now targeting streaming video. Described as “the industry’s most advanced TV publishing and monetization platform,” the new Adobe Primetime is all about getting streaming video to PCs, mobile devices, connected TVs and game consoles.
Streaming video is one of the biggest tech stories of the past few years. Demand for streaming video has gone through the roof, thanks to success stories like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and a pile of other players that seems to be growing every day. Bandwidth demands for the data-intensive service are driving improvements ranging from ultra-fast LTE wireless networks to bigger download caps for home Internet subscribers.
Wired says streaming video consumption on mobile devices in 2012 increased 100% over the previous year, while U.S. ad spending on streaming video hit $2.93 billion. According to Adobe’s own numbers the TV Everywhere initiative — formed in 2009 by Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and which had a slow start — has seen adoption rates increase 12-fold over the past year. Adobe wants to help the service really take off.
By using Adobe Primetime, Comcast and NBC Sports (the two initial customers announced by Adobe) gain a unified video publishing system that can quickly get their content out to wide range of devices, secure that content with DRM (digital rights management), run advertising optimized for all those different platforms and then track ad performance.
It’s an all-in-one solution that promises to remove development and technical headaches and the delays inherent in the current cobbled-together solutions that rely on multiple products, plug-ins and apps. Primetime’s DRM implementation (Adobe’s had a lot of practice here with its Digital Editions e-book DRM system) may help plug a big hole in current streaming video user authentication schemes, many of which seem unable to prevent non-subscribers from sharing account passwords to access paid content for free.
Adobe announced the Primetime launch on April 9. Its stock jumped as high as 2.5% the following day, but has since settled at about $45, which still puts it well above its 2012 high around $38 and very close to that $48 range again. Clearly, investors have confidence that Adobe will be able to dominate the streaming video market the way it’s dominated other digital media publishing … and that such domination will set the stage for continued earnings growth.
At the time of publication, Brad Moon did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.