Six advantages of direct-to-TV broadcast security

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By Bo Ferm

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Even before the COVID pandemic struck, we were witnessing how pure over-the-top (OTT) operators such as Netflix spearheaded the golden age of streaming entertainment. In 2020, with people spending more time at home than ever, OTT services grew at an unprecedented rate. 

OTT streaming has led to significant cord-cutting as viewers move away from traditional pay-TV services offered by cable and satellite operators to streaming subscriptions that deliver content to all kinds of authorized subscriber devices, whether at home or on-the-go. In response, legacy pay-TV operators are shifting to a hybrid distribution model by including streaming services alongside cable and satellite broadcasts, which in turn leads to the need for truly converged broadcast-OTT security.

In this hyper-competitive market, traditional broadcasters face tighter margins. Reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) is not just good business practice but essential for survival. This home entertainment competition is not just impacting content creators and distributors either; it’s also affecting TV set original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Everyone in the field is looking for an edge in terms of what they can offer while also minimizing costs to stay competitive. 

The problems and potential of content protection technology 

One potential method for achieving lower TCO is through the application of converged broadcast-OTT content protection technologies. However, considering that the rise in content piracy costs the industry over $50 billion per year, it’s obvious that cutting back on the quality of content protection technology isn’t an option. 

For several decades, the most common content protection technology was associated with set-top boxes (STBs) that decrypted cable and satellite broadcasts for those who had paid their subscription. These are known as conditional access systems (CAS). Although these legacy technologies are gradually becoming outdated and will eventually need to be replaced, they’re still forming a considerable part of the content protection technology stack of traditional pay-TV operators, and maintaining backwards compatibility is important. Thus there is a need to support both traditional broadcast services and OTT services.

The major shortcomings with traditional CA systems is that they are costly and inflexible while still considered necessary tools for broadcast TV content protection. They can also slow down the time-to-market for urgent new services and create vendor lock-in issues, both for broadcasters and device manufacturers. It doesn’t need to be like this. 

As the market transitions to a widely diversified distribution model, flexibility is key. Fortunately, hybrid strategies that embrace both traditional service models and OTT streaming can allow for greater security, flexibility in vendor management, and faster time to market. If then taking advantage of cloud-based content protection services, the goal to lower both CAPEX and OPEX costs becomes attainable.

Six advantages of direct-to-TV broadcast security

Content protection technology is essential for both TV OEMs and broadcasters; without it, studios won’t license them their content. Yet, deploying such technology may present significant financial and business challenges. Here are some of the core objectives with converged content protection technology: 

  1. Broadcast and OTT streaming convergence: For many broadcasters, it is not feasible to simply switch to a streaming-only distribution model. As such, any potential content protection technology will also need to function on current STBs and CAMs as they move towards a converged broadcasting-OTT security approach.
  2. Distribution flexibility: Modern content protection needs to be deployed across all distribution modes, such as broadcasting, adaptive streaming, multicasting, offline playback and device-to-device side loading, and time-shift applications. 
  3. System integration: Any converged broadcast-OTT security deployment needs to be easily integrated alongside the broadcaster’s current subscriber management and content management systems, through a well-defined API.
  4. Accelerated certification: Using a modern and converged content security solution, in combination with client-device self-certification, accelerates service providers’ time to market.
  5. Forensic Watermarking: Content creators invest large amounts in producing high-value UHD 4K content and rightfully insist that it be accorded the greatest protection before agreeing to license it. Direct-to-TV security solutions should be able to work transparently with forensic watermarking to maximize content security.
  6. Improving device choice: It had been standard practice for STBs to be locked into specific broadcasters and CAS vendors, so a consumer could end up with several boxes under their TV. The optimal scenario is a unified content protection technology that can cater to all broadcasters and let the consumer make that choice as they purchase a smart TV and select a service provider with just a click of the remote control. No more waiting for a cable operator to ship a box and or send a support engineer to install it.

How ExpressPlay XCA can help

Where do you find a vendor that can satisfy the above requirements in a converged content protection solution? Fortunately, Intertrust’s ExpressPlay XCA can help. Built on the open standard Marlin DRM engine, it can bring together previously siloed  conditional access and digital rights management (DRM) systems to create a converged security solution for broadcasters and manufacturers who require security and flexibility for their hybrid distribution services and products. 

ExpressPlay’s cloud-based deployment and global customer base that shares resources ensures the lowest TCO of any content protection technology currently on the market. To find out more about how ExpressPlay XCA can reduce costs while improving protection, distribution, and guiding the broadcasters into the future, download the white paper here. 

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About Bo Ferm

Bo Ferm is a Product Marketing consultant for Media Solutions at Intertrust Technologies. He is a versatile technology professional with 30+ years of successful B2B positions in Europe, North America and South East Asia. He has worked extensively with pay-TV technologies, with the past 12 years dedicated to content security in various forms.

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