What challenges does distribution to multiple devices bring to securing pay TV services?
Distribution to multiple devices involves a high degree of fragmentation in technologies, both with regards to adaptive streaming protocols and to an even higher degree DRMs. Historically, an operator would have to use a combination of streaming protocols, including HLS and Smooth Streaming, to reach all relevant devices. This is now moving in the right direction with the emergence of MPEG-DASH which promises to become a unified standard for adaptive streaming, backed by most of the big players in the industry. In the DRM space however, it seems we are moving in the opposite direction towards fragmentation. Device manufacturers are increasingly embedding their own DRM solution into the clients, and creating obstacles for use of other DRMs on these devices. We see for instance that Microsoft is embedding PlayReady into all Windows-based devices and the Internet Explorer, while Google is doing the same by embedding Widevine into the Android OS and the Chrome browser. Of course Apple is doing the same with their iOS devices. The pre-embedded DRM clients comes at no extra cost for the operator, and represent a golden opportunity for the operator to launch OTT services without high investment in DRM clients. We also see examples of device manufacturers creating obstacles for use of 3rd party DRM on their platform, favoring use of their own DRM. The best known example is the discontinuation of the NPAPI in the Chrome browser that effectively blocks use of Silverlight. All of these trends are pushing the operator into use of multiple DRMs in order to reach all relevant devices.
What infrastructure do operators need to put in place to address multiple DRMs? How can the complexity best be managed?
In Conax we believe that the best approach for an operator is to embrace the pre-embedded DRMs in the clients and build a solution around a multi-DRM security back-end. A multi-DRM back-end handling the complexity of using different DRMs for different devices, while providing a single management API towards the operator’s business system, enables the operator to securely deliver OTT services cost-efficiently. Such a back-end should be capable of handling all relevant DRMs, as well as content preparation for adaptive streaming protocols. This enables the operator to focus on the optimal customer experience and leave the complexity of security to specialist providers. Conax has worked hard on these problems for some time now, and recently launched our Conax Contego multi-DRM platform at the NAB show in Las Vegas.