10 Questions to Ask a Video Watermarking Vendor

So you need to choose a video watermarking solution to best protect your revenue. How do you decide which solution, and which vendor, are the right ones for you? When choosing a content protection company that offers video watermarking, as a broadcaster or service operator you need to determine which solution is most suitable for your content protection needs. Of course, there are a large number of factors that affect this decision, but here are some questions that you should ask all of your prospective vendors to determine whether their watermarking solution:

          • Is viewer-friendly and pirate-unfriendly;
          • Offers a universal and cost-efficient solution;
          • And actually works!

Let’s look at what this actually means and what these must-ask questions are – we have selected 10 of them to help you guide your conversations with watermarking vendors to make sense of what is actually being offered and how it aligns with your content protection needs. Keep reading for a quick content fix or download the full ebook here.

Viewer-friendly and pirate-unfriendly watermarking

Question 1. Is the watermark completely imperceptible to the viewer?

First of all, video watermarking absolutely must be imperceptible to the viewer. Security is highly important but it cannot (and need not) compromise the viewer experience. A good watermarking solution is entirely imperceptible, which also has the benefit of making it harder for a pirate to discover and circumvent.

Question 2. Is the watermark robust against real-world pirate attacks?

With live sports being the most lucrative target, deploying a watermarking technology that adapts in response to attacks in real time is crucial for protecting this content. This, therefore, requires the watermarking solution to be offered as a managed and supported service rather than an off-the-shelf product or set of tools.

Universal and cost-efficient watermarking

Question 3. Is the watermark always on during playback of all content types?

If the watermark is displayed throughout the duration of the protected content playback, any capture of pirated content from that source should include the watermark and therefore deliver a result. With an intermittently displayed watermark, the capture process is more complex and expensive.

Question 4. Can the watermark be extracted from a short pirate video capture?

Some watermarking solutions can require video captures of longer duration (30 minutes or even longer) for successful extraction. This renders them ineffective for the protection of live content – remedial action, such as service suspension, usually has to happen in real-time – it’s of little benefit after the event is over!

Question 5. Is the watermark deployable on all device categories?

Broadcasters and service operators distributing content through different channels need to make sure that valuable content is protected across the entire client device estate. Protecting an exclusive movie on the OTT players will be of limited benefit if a pirate can still easily capture or restream from an older broadcast device.

Question 6. Can the solution protect content across multiple operators?

Broadcasters need to be able to work closely with their various distribution partners so a universal watermarking solution should allow the same technology to be deployed across a number of operator platforms with a joined-up approach to content monitoring, watermark extraction, and notification of successful extraction.

Question 7. Can the solution work with any monitoring provider?

Often service providers have existing relationships with anti-piracy companies whose services they use to monitor and detect instances of piracy. Therefore the watermarking vendor must offer easy integration for the monitoring partner to submit pirate content captures (or links) for watermark extraction.

Watermarking that actually works

Question 8. Has the watermarking solution actually been deployed?

If the watermarking solution has never been deployed to a significant subscriber population, it will most likely not offer the same level of real-world performance and robustness as offered by a battle-hardened solution. Check that a watermarking vendor has a significantly deployed solution in environments that match your own.

Question 9. Is the watermarking solution deployed at scale?

Many watermarking solutions simply do not scale. Note that the requirements for subscriber-level watermarking are very different to those for distributor-level or pre-production watermarking where only a limited number of streams or playback sessions are watermarked. Ask the simple question: “How many concurrent client devices/apps?”

Question 10. Has the solution achieved real results?

The ultimate goal of watermarking is to identify accounts used by pirates to shut them down, or to identify a distribution partner with security issues and work together to tighten up protection. Embedding watermarks without monitoring and extraction doesn’t add any significant long-term value amidst constantly shifting compliance requirements.

And... Are you making an ‘apples to apples’ comparison?

Watermarking is just one component of a comprehensive content security system, and some vendors offer multiple components alongside watermarking. Make sure you are comparing like for like: pricing is aligned correctly across vendors and the appropriate number of extractions per month is quoted, for example, a broadcaster of major sports leagues may potentially require millions of extractions each month.

Summing up

The content protection goals of marking valuable content can only be achieved by actually detecting the stolen content, extracting watermarks, and consequently taking action against infringing subscribers. When exploring the watermarking solutions available in the market, broadcasters and service providers need to make sure they are looking at joined-up end-to-end solutions, deployed at scale in the real world, that can deliver actual business benefits.

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