Any player in the OTT world would have a hard time keeping up with the myriad of changes we have seen over the past several months: COVID-19. The dramatic increase in video consumption. The exponential rise in subscriptions to established OTT streaming services. New OTT streaming services. PVOD. Fragmentation of content. But enter the other player – the content pirate – and things become even more complicated.
As we reviewed in our first article, the stakes are high – very high. A recent report from Parks Associates finds that the value of pirate video services accessed by pay TV and non-pay TV consumers will exceed $67 billion (USD) worldwide by 2023. Another report from ABI Research estimates that more than 17% of worldwide video streaming users access content illegally. The impact on OTT streaming services is a direct and significant blow to the bottom line.
To stay alive in this environment, OTT companies have no choice but to secure content delivery and playback at a multiplayer level, which includes:
If you’re an OTT service launching premium exclusive content, don’t be the one that suddenly discovers your content appearing, and then being distributed through pirate services, within minutes of launch.
Often considered the cornerstone of content and revenue protection strategy, digital rights management (DRM) remains a critical part of an effective multi-prong system. In Article 2, Intertrust Technologies discussed the pros and cons of two DRM license acquisition models (direct acquisition model, from a license server, and proxy license acquisition model, from a proxy server).
Intertrust also discussed DRM best practices for leveraging a cloud-based DRM service to protect high-value streaming content. OTT operators must follow these to block the loopholes that hackers otherwise may use to defeat the purpose of DRM technology.
Delivering high-value premium content to a web browser can be a risky venture, but one that is critical to reaching audiences today. Browser environments are amongst the farthest-reaching, but least secure, due to their open nature, and require some extra attention when implementing content protection systems.
Finally, once an OTT provider has secured its distribution chain from source to the playback environment, and has followed best practices to secure the playback experience as much as possible, Bitmovin summarized three golden rules to boost users’ experience – and ultimately, your brand.
For all of its merits, the reality is that DRM only protects the delivery and distribution of content to the point of consumption. In Article 4, Friend MTS showed that beyond DRM there is a need to detect pirated content, deter wrongdoers by identifying them in stolen content, and take action to stop further loss of revenue by disabling access to the service.
Although DRM protects the content until it arrives at its intended legitimate destination, additional precautions should be made to stop content from being redistributed by those who have no rights to do so.
Commonly pirates will capture content directly from the screen (with the use of screen recording software) or a device’s digital output with rights management removed. They’re able to rip the stream once the content is decrypted by the authorized devices.
So, if DRM protects only the legitimate path from origination to the point of consumption, the OTT operator must protect the value of video content – whether original or rights-managed – outside of these service boundaries. How? Forensic subscriber-level watermarking can be employed on any delivered video in the service. Doing so affords the ability to identify the ‘subscriber’, your legitimate user. Using a combination of active monitoring of piracy groups and sites – suspected pirate materials are identified through known reference fingerprints, and an extraction process can take place to obtain the subscriber identifying data within the watermark. This can rapidly signpost the “bad actors”, low volume content sharers, and industrial-scale pirates. Action can then be taken to stop the content from being accessed and used for piracy.
With an effective subscriber-level watermarking solution, you can close the loop and start to lock down piracy at its source.
Friend MTS reviewed the pros and cons of A/B variant (server-side) and client-composited (server-side + client-side) watermarking in an OTT environment and looked at how they are deployed and function. Client-composited is the clear winner with its rapid detection of content theft, lower overall cost, reduced deployment complexity, faster time-to-market, and higher adaptability to attacks on watermarks.
In looking at the characteristics of an effective client-composited watermarking service, Friend MTS outlined its Advanced Subscriber Identification (ASiD) service, which has retained its agility to fend off attacks and has proven robustness in both broadcast and OTT environments. They highlighted the importance of a watermarking provider not only keeping up with the latest pirate schemes but staying ahead of them. They also detailed the key watermarking features of speed, global reach and ability to deliver through a multi-CDN service – all within the context of live sports and entertainment, pay-per-view and on-demand content.
Article 4 also highlights the need to understand the ‘human factor’ in your OTT service – the end-users who are consuming content. Friend MTS advised starting with a position of ‘zero trust’ for your users – assume some users of your service will attempt to circumvent security controls or use your service in a way you didn’t intend. Errant or undesired behavior within your service can be broken down into various ‘personas’ and the article takes you through several of these.
Once user behaviours are understood, you can plan your monitoring architecture, and how your business support systems should respond to service misuse.
Today’s OTT world is radically different than it was in early 2020. Bad actors abound. Content and revenue are at risk literally every minute of every day around the world. But you do not need to be a victim.
It’s possible to take steps upfront to secure content, working with a multi-pronged strategy that integrates DRM, forensic watermarking, player security, and robust monitoring to produce a real solution to the problem of content piracy. In today’s world, “end-to-end” is not just an IT buzzword. It’s a way of delivering streaming media to a playback client in the most secure and protective environment that we can achieve.
Join us for our Webinar on the 18th of November. We’ll be continuing the discussion on the content distribution chain and the importance of delivering streaming content in the most secure ways possible while protecting both your content and revenue.
Check out the other articles in our series:
Or view our fireside chats and webinar:
“How To Trust Your Player” is a collaborative effort between Bitmovin, Friend MTS and Intertrust Technologies. The goal is to educate media and content providers on the importance of delivering streaming content in the most secure ways possible, from the video player to the end consumer, while protecting both content and revenue.
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