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How is the DRM Landscape Shifting?

8 min read

With streaming content becoming central to our lives, service providers are concerned about keeping content secure and protected from potential infringement. Due to rising competition and an increasing amount of high-value content being streamed directly to consumers, Digital Rights Management (DRM) has become a major topic of discussion for service providers. Accedo gathered three industry experts to discuss the need for DRM, the driving factors for its adoption, and the expected developments in the near future.

The Growing Importance of DRM

According to Gaurav Mittal, Product Manager at Irdeto, DRM has evolved into an enabler rather than just delivering encryption keys. Tomica Gril, Solution Architect at CastLabs, agrees with Gaurav’s thought process and adds, “every month we have more license requests, not as a consequence of the increasing number of end-users, but also because more content is now DRM protected.” In the past, service providers would only secure their content using simple protection methods, but Gril shares that DRM is becoming a new standard. 

The number of factors driving the increasing adoption of DRM are:

1. Growth in Live Streaming

Alison Kolodny, Product Manager at JW Player, shares that their company has seen tremendous growth in live streaming and cord-cutting in the last decade, and the global pandemic has further fueled this trend. Kolodny further elaborates that when the pandemic hit the world, the demand for VoD, live streaming events, and e-learning grew. And, as this type of content is critical for video businesses to drive their revenue growth, the companies are treading cautiously and increasing their efforts to reduce the risk of piracy. 

Irdeto’s Gaurav Mittal points out that since more content premieres over-the-top, the window between the theatrical and OTT release is reducing. He further added that many service providers are acquiring sports rights for their video business. While the increasing demand for live streaming services and the consumer’s high willingness to pay for valuable content is advantageous for content providers, it is a problematic proposition for counterfeiting and internet piracy.

2. Plethora of Platforms and Services

With the number of streaming devices and platforms increasing, the need for different security requirements is also growing. Since there are so many ways in which content can be stolen, the simple protection methods are no longer viable in a multi-device and fragmented market landscape. 

Regardless of the chosen business model(s), such as AVOD, SVOD, and TVOD, the need to have the appropriate DRM systems within your infrastructure to protect your content is essential. Gaurav Mittal mentions that Irdeto’s customers seek security algorithms such as track keys, key rotation, and DRM-based concurrency management. 

3. Rise of UHD

According to Tomica Gril, one of the main factors driving the adoption of DRM is the increasing number of devices that can deliver Ultra High Definition (UHD) videos. Due to the availability of different devices, it is no longer sufficient to have just one DRM system. Every provider would have to adapt their DRM system depending on the device and the content played on that particular device. For instance, UHD content may need to be protected with a specific DRM system to disable playback on non-HDCP 2.2 compliant devices. There are many other examples where another dimension to streaming video requires particular DRM features.

4. Anyone can be a Reporter

With every individual carrying a smartphone that can capture videos and access free wifi, Gril points out that anyone can live stream from their phone and become a reporter. Alison Kolodny agrees that video production and distribution are no longer restricted to Tier 1 broadcasters; we see potential new use cases everyday. As the number of video content creators is growing with the number of platforms available, including social media, they would all require a certain level of content protection along the value chain.

Navigating DRM Challenges

According to Alison, many service providers do not understand what exactly DRM is and what is required to execute a robust system. She adds- “It has become a common practice to license content from major production houses and studios or secure rights to stream live sports. However, the big question that service providers have to tackle is how to cater to stringent security requirements laid out by content providers.” Since many companies have not used DRM before and are still grasping to understand DRM systems, they need guidance on integrating this system into their workflow. 

Gril mentions that the main concern Castlab’s customers come to them with is how to play DRM-protected content on various platforms and devices while keeping the cost to a minimum. He further elaborates, “We want to know which platforms our customers intend to use to deliver their content. When we have that information, we consider many factors, such as the streaming format, the DRM schemes, and the supported encryption modes on those chosen platforms. The general rule of thumb is to look for the lowest denominator that supports most platforms, if not all, but make sure that the total cost is as low as possible.” 

To navigate through the mentioned challenges, service providers require DRM solutions that are robust, simple to use, and enable advanced features. Mittal acknowledges that “DRM systems should be resilient, provide failover management, and have always-on availability. While the solutions need to provide content security without impacting the end-user experience, we need them to be scalable to support organic growth and peak demand for highly popular events.

The Future is Secure

It is a well-known fact that the interest in DRM will most likely escalate in the coming years. Gril mentions that delivering content securely will be demanded by the content providers. Due to this, DRM solutions should be flexible and evolve to meet the needs of new use cases. Gril believes that the industry can tread towards standardizing a DRM solution that can work across various platforms. Additionally, we could see partners working towards watermarking and protecting content from leaks. 

Additionally, Kolodny predicts that content protection could be an added service offering while digital watermarking will become a norm for studios and sports content providers. Mittal adds that DRM is just one piece of the puzzle when discussing content protection. Watermarking, monitoring, and detection are additional tools required to protect premium content, specifically for live sports where a fast response is required. 

As the need for DRM solutions is growing, service providers would also have an opportunity to understand how to protect their content by leveraging it to draw deals with studios and sports content providers. Once a DRM solution is standardized, video providers can deliver protected content across various platforms for different types of content. 

Accedo recently added multiple DRM support solutions to its Accedo One Marketplace. Learn more about our Accedo One OTT SaaS platform and its available integrations.

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