Choosing multi-DRM solutions in a global digital media landscape

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By Team ExpressPlay


In the world today, a growing percentage of all content produced is delivered to consumers via streaming channels through OTT (over the top, or internet) carriers. These include services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ and many others, as well as live streamed content from major sports or other events. Then of course there is the vast collection of videos of all types, both amateur and professionally created on YouTube, which has attempted to deliver content via OTT in addition to its own YouTube TV streaming service.

For almost all of these content options, digital rights management, or DRM is a fundamental part of the delivery process to a global audience. The fundamental importance of DRM to streaming content creators, media producers and entertainment businesses can’t be overstated. These different interests apply strong DRM solutions to their content for the sake of protecting it from piracy and unauthorized use.

The problem with DRM solutions to content security challenges enters the picture (literally and figuratively) when it comes to how much these solutions are subject to fragmentation across jurisdictions, technologies and device types, leading to availability gaps, frustrating lack of access for many consumers and compatibility issues across many different types of display or streaming devices.

This is where multi-DRM solutions can enter the picture as well. Multi-DRM solutions can not only help overcome these fragmentation challenges but also fight piracy while ensuring that audiences can more broadly access DRM-protected content.

The Challenges of DRM over OTT

As a rapidly growing number of consumers seek the majority of their digital entertainment needs through OTT streaming services instead of traditional broadcast and cable/satellite sources, the content they want to receive has to pass through these same OTT systems in a way that satisfies a whole range of studio licensing requirements, geo-restriction clauses and technical compatibility issues with digital right management technologies.

The laudable motives behind these restrictions include content protection for the sake of avoiding piracy and protecting creator intellectual property rights. The not so laudable outcomes often include many frustrated viewers who for one reason or another simply can’t access their favorite content sources because they’re using the wrong device, living in the wrong location or using the wrong service for their area. 

Any of these obstacles to convenience can quite naturally push people towards piracy instead of legal content sources. As a result, content piracy itself becomes more in demand and incentivized.

In other words, the very same DRM solutions that content producers impose on OTT channels and device makers for the sake of preventing piracy can perversely cause it to increase and lead to potential revenue losses.

OTT providers also have their hands full with the fragmentation across all of the technologies they use. These include operating systems, device types, browsers and streaming hardware products like Roku or Apple TV and others. 


Between all of these factors, DRM becomes fragmented in terms of compatibility and OTT services need to support multiple DRM types that aren’t even compatible among each other. They also have to deal with cost challenges that come from IT expenses, content security protections and updates to their hardware or software if using on-prem servers.

This complexity trend obviously shouldn’t continue along this path. If it does, content creators and producers could lose even more revenue to piracy while OTT providers are burdened with a growing volume of DRM compliance costs.

In-house Multi-DRM expertise, a possible solution

For the sake of improving DRM management and expanding content access so that consumers anywhere can enjoy their favorite entertainment whenever and wherever without arbitrary limitations, OTT providers need to find better solutions. This is where professional multi-DRM can play a major role.

Essentially, OTT providers can use multi-DRM solutions to embed DRM support into their systems in a way that evolves with new standards and makes content more accessible. One method of doing this would be for OTT services to create their own evolving, in-house DRM support. 

Another solution, and likely a more cost effective one, is for them to simply request these digital rights management solutions as a service by a secure, dedicated third party provider that offers multi-DRM as a service.

What is a Multi-DRM cloud service?

A multi-DRM provider such as ExpressPlay DRM can provide a multi-DRM cloud service to OTT content companies at a fraction of the cost and complexity that they would face if building their own digital rights management systems. With multi-DRM implementation through a dedicated third-party cloud service, OTT operators can ensure a consistent user experience without complex IT investments in infrastructure, private cloud services or capital expenses and operating expenses. They can also comply with complex licensing agreements for different consumer viewing contexts.

Why Multi-DRM cloud service?

Working with a professional external multi-DRM service lets content providers keep their offerings to consumers available at all times despite a constantly evolving range of enhanced content parameters, OS upgrades, consumer device changes and DRM servers run by different licensing authorities.

These solutions are all considerably more affordable than they would be if done in-house. They’re also much easier to arrange and keep up-to-date at low cost. What’s more, an OTT operator can use third-party multi-DRM assistance to scale up their delivery of content to new consumer markets much more easily and without wasting time on the infrastructure required for creating and running its own DRM platform.

All of the above factors can make delivery of DRM-protected paid content much more affordable for content providers. This means increased revenues per customer and increased agility when it comes to providing new content to new markets on the fly. Outsourcing DRM provision to an external party also lets OTT operators focus on its core strength, which lies in securing content licensing contracts and knowing what markets it can serve as quickly as possible.

Intertrust ExpressPlay offers its own robust and broad menu of multi-DRM services for OTT providers of any size. Its range of products lets OTT operators of all stripes better serve its customers without taking on unnecessary capital expenses. It lets OTT companies spend more of their time on delivering compelling services and support in a shifting, fragmented landscape.