Multiplatform & Internet Video: Why Content Protection Matters

The flurry of tablets launched to take on the iPad at the Mobile World Congress underscores the trend toward distributing content across device platforms. Consumers, armed with a variety of PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, tablets and other mobile devices, are increasingly demanding their preferred content be delivered to them on all screens.

Service providers also see an opportunity to leverage this trend: In Heavy Reading's exclusive survey of service providers around the world, 76 percent of respondents agreed that multiplatform video would be an important requirement for their business within the next five years.

However, multiplatform video faces several challenges. Perhaps the most critical of these is the requirement for service providers to identify legitimate subscribers whether they are in-home or mobile, on any device they choose to use.

Heavy Reading's recently published report, "Content Protection for Multiplatform & Internet Video: Who's Doing What," found that content owners will not license their content for distribution to additional devices without adequate safeguards being built in. Unlicensed access to TV content on other platforms won't just affect potential new revenue; it will also cannibalize existing pay-TV revenue, which is a revenue stream they are dependent on.

While some pay-TV conditional access system (CAS) vendors have developed multiplatform solutions, development of DRM for online and mobile video has largely proceeded independently. This means that solutions are not always compatible -- different DRMs may support varying usage rules and frustrate users, or may require new sign-ons and passwords at each step. Different networks and devices may also have different capabilities, further limiting consistent experiences. Most importantly, all content protection mechanisms must interoperate with a single, centralized subscriber account to authenticate and authorize legitimate users.

While standards are being developed in this space, different members of value chain have slightly different priorities. For example, device manufacturers and service providers may have differing objectives for content protection, which slows standards development. Initiatives such as Marlin and the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC (DECE) 's UltraViolet are promising, though still at a fairly early stage.

Other key findings in "Content Protection for Multiplatform & Internet Video: Who's Doing What," include:

  • A variety of DRM approaches are likely to be used for multiplatform video, with different technologies and often different vendors used by one provider for different device platforms.

  • Hardware-based conditional access solutions, such as smart cards, are less likely to prove popular for PCs, mobile phones or other portable devices. However, they are likely to remain the content protection mechanism for set-top boxes particularly on one-way networks such as digital broadcast and direct-to-home satellite.

  • Vendors with relationships across the industry value chain will have an advantage. As multiplatform video content protection develops, content owners, online distributors, device manufacturers and service providers are all going to have a say in how content is encrypted and secured. A content protection vendor that can communicate with all these segments, and convince them that their needs are being addressed, will benefit.

Operators are keen on exploiting the multiplatform video opportunity, but will need to get themselves up to speed on emerging content protection standards, different vendor solutions and the overall complexity involved with protecting video across devices and networks.

— Aditya Kishore, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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