Adobe Acquisition Of Frame.io For Cloud Collaborative Workflow Questioned By Analysts

Adobe’s acquisition of New York based start-up Frame.io for $1.28 billion highlights the meteoric rise of cloud based collaborative workflows, stimulated further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The move gives Adobe a stake in this fast-growing camera to cloud field and strengthens its position in remote video production, but analysts were still aghast at the eye watering sum paid.

Adobe, however, was like some others caught napping by the surge in demand for such video collaboration software and reckoned it did not have time to develop its own in-house equivalent before its competitors had become too entrenched. Competitors include big names in the field with long established pedigrees, such as Avid and Microsoft, with Adobe eager, or even desperate, to gain a major stake in the field at a stroke.

Frame.io was itself rooted in software developed in-house by Emery Wells, a post production company owner, and technologist John Traver, to solve their own workflow problems. They then founded Frame.io in 2014 to bring this to market.

Since then, the Frame.io platform has matured to orchestrate video creation by centralizing media assets, including scripts, storyboards, and work-in-progress. The key though is that it allows frame-accurate feedback and comments, annotations and approvals in real time. Significantly, it enables faster upload than other cloud hosting services, such as Vimeo, Box, Dropbox and others.

It was this capability for rapid and effective real time collaboration that appealed to Adobe, dovetailing with its existing creative software. Indeed, Adobe argued that the combination of such creative software, including Premiere Pro and After Effects video editing products, with Frame.io’s review and approval functionality would “deliver a collaboration platform that powers the video editing process.”

The Frame.io web platform was originally designed long before the Adobe acquisition to be part of its customers’ existing processes, by integrating with non-linear editing systems (NLEs) such as Adobe Premiere Pro. This enables direct uploading to Frame.io for managing and sharing these editing products, either internally or with external clients.

“Whether it’s the latest binge-worthy streaming series, a social media video that sparks a movement, or a corporate video that connects thousands of remote workers, video creation and consumption is experiencing tremendous growth,” Adobe announced. “Today’s video workflows are disjointed with multiple tools and communication channels being used to solicit stakeholder feedback. Frame.io eliminates the inefficiencies of video workflows by enabling real-time footage upload, access, and in-line stakeholder collaboration in a secure and elegant experience across surfaces.”

Even so, these capabilities do not seem to add up to the enormous sum paid for them by themselves. It is after all just a well coded sharing package for annotation and commenting, scoring for clarity and speed. The valuation can only be justified by a combination of future revenues from the software itself and potential sales of other Adobe products to the customers Frame.io brings on board.

Adobe’s accountants probably justified the price paid mainly on the lifetime value of the customer base acquired, including potential new recruits. This comes at a time larger brands are increasing use of video in marketing and promotion, just as cloud production is becoming more mainstream. The calculation is that with Frame.io, working collaboratively on video will become simpler, resembling sharing of docs via Google or Dropbox. Then roll out of 5G wireless, as well as fixed fiber networks, will increase capacity of cloud based services, enabling high quality remote production without satellite.

Whatever the case, Frame.io has enjoyed a meteoric rise almost unprecedented in the video business, exceeding in pace or scale the likes of Elemental, acquired by Amazon, or NDS, which took much longer to accrue the $5 billion valuation placed on it by Cisco in 2012.

The deal makes Frame.io a unicorn, a start-up to reach $1 billion valuation. There have been much faster unicorns, with some racing to the $1 billion valuation mark in a matter of months, but not in video workflow collaboration. Furthermore in Frame.io’s case actual money changed hands, beyond just a valuation. 

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