Should I upgrade to JW Player Pro 6 or Premium?

Update 24 September 2014: A question that pops up regularly these days is: “Should I upgrade to JW Player 6?”  This depends on which features of JW Player you are using currently. JW Player 6 has a new set of advanced features which are surely worthwhile to investigate, but keep in mind there are quite a few changes in the embedding code and some plugins become obsolete.

 

If you have already a load of videos or audios on your site and embedded the code by hand, you will have to change the embedding code for each instance.
Customized skins needs to be adapted as well and the old Related videos plugin and other third party plugins are obsolete.  Here is a full overview of changes: http://www.longtailvideo.com/jw-player/

Support for HTML5 fallback has improved considerably and the behavior of the Flash player changed quite a lot as well, being now more or less in line with YouTube. This has the advantage that visitors who frequent YouTube often will be more at home with JW Player then ever.

Some observations while I’m studying JW Player 6:
Updated on 24 September 2014 – testing JW player 6.10

  • Note that the controlbar can no longer be positioned where you like. Over is the fixed default now. Personally, I think this is no improvement but I guess they want to be as HTML5 compatible as possible.
  • Subtitles support SRT, WebVTT and DFXP. They have to be embedded in a playlist from now on.
    However, it becomes much easier to add multi-lingual captions, so if you want to serve subtitles in various languages, this is good news. Some mobiles still do not accept subtitles via external files ( HTML5 Text Tracks) on iOS and Android are now.
    You can no longer set the subtitles to show up automatically (‘state’ attribute). The visitor now needs to select the CC button to show subtitles. This is also in line with the YouTube player.  However, version 5.10 was more convenient as the visitor only had to click once on the CC button, now he has to click and then select either a language or click on the word Captions, depending on the configuration of the player. Every extra click is too much in my book.
    That said, the browser remembers your setting, so if the visitor looks at the video again at a later time, the chosen language shows up automatically. This compensates the extra click the first time.
  • Icons in the dock are no longer possible. Not sure this is a good idea for visitors with motoric disablilities. The icons in the video area where much bigger then the tiny ones in the controlbar. It is possible to create big buttons to compensate for this, but it would have been better for everyone if both options were available, like in version 5.10 and older.
    However, some buttons only display in the dock, like Sharing. Sharing is a Pro/Premium feature that allows sharing a link to the page where a video or audio is published.
  • Another lost feature (although rather advanced), is inline dynamic playlist for streaming. If you want to videos based on the connection speed of the visitor, you need to work with an external SMIL file. Not a problem for public videos and audios, but with  private streaming via CloudFront it is out of the question.
  • Although you will be able to recuperate most of your existing embedding code, it needs quite some re-arrangement, especially for the more advanced features, like RTMP streaming and subtitles. Good news is that RTMP streaming URLs are simpler now. You do no longer need to put the RTMP path to the streaming software separately. You can glue it all together, like this: rtmp://xxxxxxxx.cloudfront.net/cfx/st/mp4:lost-corners-documentary-i3.mp4
  • JW Player supports neither RTMP nor HLS on Android. Although HLS is officially supported as of Android 3.0, a number of critical bugs prevents a satisfying playback experience. See Longtailvideo’s HTML5 report for more info.
  • Skins: The icons for the display area need to have the same size now or some of them will distort. It is possible to use base64 encoded strings directly in the xml file, which has the advantage that you only need one xml file without folders and images.  Here is an encoder to convert mages to base64 encoded strings: http://www.askapache.com/online-tools/base64-image-converter/ kindly provided for free by AskApache.
    Disadvantages: The code generated is 137% bigger and images cannot be cached. However, you can still use the old method if you like. Whether one method is better then the other depends on personal insight. I like the old method better because it is easier to tweak and maintain.
  • Test your videos on Chrome extensively. Although it claims to support MP4 in HTML5, chances are you need to convert your videos. See  http://www.longtailvideo.com/support/jw-player/28838/mp4-video-encoding to convert your videos.
  • Default, HTML5 fallback comes first, you need to set Flash as primary if you want it to take precedence. This was the case in JW Player 5.10 also, but the setting has changed because the mode method has been dropped in favor of a leaner embedding code. Add primary; “flash” in the embedding to set Flash as the first choice, like this:
    <script type=”text/javascript”>
        jwplayer(“myElement”).setup({
            ‘skin’: ‘magmatic/magmatic.xml’,
      ‘back’: ‘false’,
    ‘width’: ‘500’,
            ‘height’: ‘300’
            ‘primary’: ‘flash’,
            ‘playlist’: [{
            captions: [
                { file: “caption.vtt”, label: “English” }
            ],
            ‘file’: ‘introWooden-Dimensions-low.mp4’,
            ‘image’: ‘myposterimage.jpg’
            }]
        });
    </script>
    This leaner code comes at a cost, however. With the modes, you could set a different video for HTML5 Fallback. Perhaps there is a way around this, but have not found it yet. One option could be to work with dynamic streaming where you provide several videos depending on the bandwidth connection. That would compensate for the loss of HTML5 fallback solution. Here, I use the playlist method because it allows to add subtitles. You can add more language versions like this:
    { file: “caption-en.vtt”, label: “English” }
    { file: “caption-nl.vtt”, label: “Nederlands” }
    { file: “caption-de.vtt”, label: “Deutsh” }
    { file: “caption-fr.vtt”, label: “Français” }
    In this way, the visitor can select the language they want.
  • JW Player 6.0 also requires a license key declaration if you use the Pro or Premium version to unlock their features in the free player, like this:
    <script>jwplayer.key=”kH8HryXvGhnJikHNMnsMmGRalPED1lQr8qKZnw==”</script>
    You can place this in the header of your html page, or above the embedding code. Each customer has his/her own key.
  • The tooltip in the timeline is a wonderful feature as it shows the time when you move with your mouse over the controlbar. In the 5.10 version, this could be accomplished with a separate plugin but this looks really nice.
  • The player is truly responsive. In other words, if you set the width to 100%, the video scales according to your template and the browser window. Version 5.10 needed a complicated workaround with iframes to accomplish that.

As I go along, I will add items to this list, so you may want to check from time to time.

Example video using JW player 6.10:

I wish I could show an example directly in this site, but  Miracle Tutorials is using S3Media Stream™ with JW player 5.10, so there is a conflict there. But you can have a look at this test page where I tinker around with JW player 6.5 in preparation for the new version of S3Media Stream™:
http://www.raboo.com/test/test2.php Notice how the responsiveness of the player works and the multilingual subtitles, although I still have a problem with the French subtitles file at this time of writing.
Be aware that this may not work on tablets or non-flash browsers currently. It also changes regularly as I add new features.

License policy changes

Another consideration is the yearly renewal plan which adds to the cost considerably. So far, you paid once for your player, but from version 6.0 onward, a yearly renewal is required. Also, if you have a multi-site license, it will become obsolete as well. Currently, you can buy either a 1 site license or a 10 site license. It is possible to get a license for more than 10 sites.  You can contact Longtailvideo about this here: http://www.longtailvideo.com/jw-player/enterprise-contact-us

JW Player Pro vs JW Player Premium

JW Player Pro is comparable with JW Player 5.10, except that internally a couple of things have improved, while other features are dropped (see also observations above). The new version has better HTML5 handling and supports more HTML5 browsers.
Flash support for Android has been dropped as Android changes gear quite often, so Longtailvideo deemed it wiser to fallback on HTML5 for all Android devices.
The Pro version can only be used on 1 site.

JW Player Premium allows you to place it on up to 10 websites. It has a couple of very interesting features you do not find on JW Player Pro:

  • Related videos (premium and Ads version only) can be set with an external rss file. It features a title, thumbnail, link to a page and/or link to a video. This can be set to inline playing or opening another page containing a video. Contrary to the old version of JW player, this works on iOS as well.
    However, this feature is a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, if you click on a thumbnail, it goes to the page you indicated, but there, the rss file says it cannot find any related videos, whether you embedded the same rss file  or not. There is a complicated workaround for this using the mediaid property but that is quite clunky to work with.
  • Sharing (premium and Ads version only) shows Social Media icons with a link to your page. Works also on iOS.
    This feature works fine for videos but if you are publishing audios using the controlbar only, there is no sharing button in the controlbar. You have to increase the height of the player to show that button.  Not only that, you have to increase it considerably because contrary to videos, the controlbar is sticky once you start playing the audio, therefore you have to allow more room, otherwise the sharing button is hidden under the controlbar.
    You can use a album poster to make it look more agreeable, though. Otherwise you end up with black area showing the button, which is quite awkward to say the least.
    It also means you loose quite some real estate on your pages, especially if you place more then one audio.
  • Google analytics (premium and Ads version only). Shows traffic results of videos in your GoogleAnalytics account.

A full overview of features can be found here: http://www.longtailvideo.com/jw-player/pricing/

We will keep the older tutorials on the site for those of you who wish to remain using JW Player 5.10, but it is possible that some features will be dropped. Like AdSolutions will no longer work. Longtailvideo created a new system that is subscription based. See the right column in http://www.longtailvideo.com/jw-player/pricing/

We are in the process of upgrading S3Media Stream™ to the new JW Player version. When finished, we will create a new tutorial on how to embed videos and audios with JW Player 6.0. Note also that Longtailvideo has to upgrade their plugins for Joomla, WordPress and Drupal. If you use one of those plugins, you need to wait until they are released.

Conclusion

Back to the question: “Should I upgrade or not?”
If you are happy with the features of JW Player 5.10, and your audience is happy with the way you serve your video or audios, there is actually no reason to upgrade.
But keep in mind that the rich media industry evolves all the time and the new player is adapted to the new situation in a sense that it allows for better HTML5 support.
On top of that, the market share of tablets not supporting Flash is growing exponentially so you may find at some point that your audience has problems viewing your content.
Also, Longtailvideo may decide to disable some features native to version 5.10 and lower. therefore you might want to keep using 5.10 JW player confirmed in hte meantime that no features will be dropped in the foreseeable future since there are still many sites with older versions of JW player. That said, I advice you to download the free version of JW Player 6.10 to get acquainted with it, so that you can migrate when the need is there.

11 thoughts on “Should I upgrade to JW Player Pro 6 or Premium?

  1. This is really a time saver for me. Thank you very much for this overview. I’m excited about the google analytics tool. How does it work?

  2. One of my colleagues came across your excellent article. Thanks a lot for all this research!

    Upgrading from JW Player 5 to 6 is indeed not straightforward. JW5 is really the last iteration of a “Flash only” player. JW6 is the first iteration of the “HTML5 first” player. Hence the many changes in both config and UX. Note we’re still looking into adding a controlbar=bottom feature and subtitles on mobile.

    The overall star of the 6.0 release (and the Premium) player has been support for Apple HLS in Flash. This targets a more specific audience (publishers with live streams or long-form content), but is nontheless a huge time+money saver over traditional HLS+RTMP solutions.

    As to the yearly subscription piece: we went there really fast without yet having all the features to justify the recurring part. However, over the next few month you will see from us a set of JW Player services that are part of the subscription: Video Analytics (by video, device, referrer, geo), a CDN Hosted player (easy install, reliably delivery, auto upgrade) and more.

    • Thanks for the additional information, Jeroen. Is there a possibility to look into re-implementing dock buttons or is that out of the question with the new setup?

  3. Hi, about the “Skins” point I can suggest this online tool that I made to speed up the packaging process:

    http://jwspack.azurewebsites.net/

    Yes the final xml file is bigger (the same size of all the source files) but the browser do a single request for it and it can cache it (you can finally put the skin on a CDN).

  4. One thing you didn’t mention, was the CPU/GPU usage for Flash.

    I have found, comparing JW5 to latest JW 6.5, significant improvement in that area.
    MacBook 13″ from 80 to 30-35% full screen on 2Mbit live Flash stream.

    I believe it has to do with ‘StageVideo’. Try it yourself and let us know :)

    • There are certainly improvements with the new JW player. I’ll check Stagevideo out. thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Our company has used JW5 for a couple of years now on a VOD website. After firsthand experience with the player, both 5 and 6, more importantly their technical support. I would never recommend them or the player to anyone. They change their code too frequently and dismiss their paying client interests.

    I’m not going to go into great detail here but we have decided to go with a more consistent OSM player.

    Simply put. If you’re running a production site, stay away from Longtail.

    • Hi Alex,
      Sorry to hear you had problems with support. I experienced no problems with them myself. They generally respond the same day.
      It is a fact that JWplayer 6 is rewritten from scratch, therefore the embedding code is different indeed. But version 5.x has been stable for over 5 years and it is from time to time necessary to sweep the slate clean to keep up with today’s requirements. After all, the video industry is going through lots of changes rapidly. Therefore, I do not agree with your assessment that JWplayer is not fit for production sites.

  6. we have been using JW player for a while now we are a small church but if we have to start paying every year i think we will just find another player to use its already expensive enough to stream live content and this just makes it even more so..

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can leave a comment on this article below. Comments are subject to an approval process before they are published. By posting a comment, you agree with the terms of use.

Leave a Comment