How DRM-based converged security reduces TCO of broadcast TV

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By Team ExpressPlay


Broadcasters and OTT providers on collision course

Traditional terrestrial broadcasters and cable TV operators (“broadcasters”), often referred to as multichannel video programming distributors or MVPDs, have been on a collision course with nimble over-the-top (OTT) video streaming providers for more than a decade. OTT providers gradually eat away at the established broadcasters’ audience base, which is being reduced through cord-cutting and never-corders. Meanwhile, the momentum of OTT providers continues to grow as they increasingly create award-winning original content that matches or exceeds the “best of Hollywood.” 

Yet, the two worlds of content protection, commonly known as CAS and DRM, have remained distinct and separate, essentially ensconced in two silos. Legacy conditional access systems (CAS) have served one-way broadcast networks since digital TV was introduced in the mid ‘90s. The rigid CAS approach, with its dependence on proprietary security hardware in set-top-boxes, is contrasted by the flexibility of digital rights management (DRM) protected streaming systems designed to serve IP-based networks such as the internet and content delivery networks (CDNs). It is clear that the internet has fundamentally disrupted television forever.

Broadcasters add OTT services

To stave off the OTT onslaught, broadcasters first added TV Everywhere (TVE) services, allowing subscribers to enjoy their favorite content on any device and, in the case of on-demand services, at any time. As a prerequisite to offering TVE services, broadcasters had to familiarize themselves with DRM protected streaming technology.

Beyond the initial TVE offerings, which were not a hit with consumers, broadcasters have increasingly accepted that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” The best example is of course the inclusion of Netflix as part of a broadcaster’s total subscription package (in some cases with single-bill convenience), and even a dedicated Netflix button on the remote control. This has given rise to the need to support hybrid TV services, essentially marrying broadcast and OTT services into one easy-to-navigate user interface (UX). As user friendly as this may seem for the viewers, it has created an even greater challenge from a content protection perspective.  Depending on the OTT content origination, broadcasters may become encumbered with two different, silo-based content security technologies, CAS and DRM, resulting in an increased total cost of ownership (TCO). In hybrid broadcast-OTT subscriber devices, two separate security clients are required to receive and decrypt the broadcast and OTT services, requiring two time consuming CAS and DRM certifications resulting in higher cost and often a longer time-to-market for these new hybrid services.

Can the CAS and DRM silos be merged into one?

This need for dual CAS and DRM systems leads to the obvious question: can CAS and DRM be merged to support both broadcast and OTT services while reducing the TCO? In the case of hybrid TV services, is there an opportunity to reduce the cost by eliminating the need for two security clients and external hardware such as set-top boxes (STBs), smart cards, and conditional access modules (CAMs)?

Elimination of content protection silos

The opportunity to eliminate both the two-silo approach and external hardware requires a migration to a converged security system for delivering hybrid TV services. The ultimate goal is to transition all broadcast services to IP-based delivery, at which point the content security requirements will be the same regardless of network type. Now an advanced, network-agnostic DRM system can provide across-the-board content protection, which will allow the discontinuation of the CAS altogether.

An example of such a future-proof system is Marlin DRM. With Marlin DRM as the anchor protection technology, video service providers benefit from the best possible solution for operating in today’s converged legacy and OTT TV marketplace. It also positions service providers properly so there is a painless transition to the DRM protection regime that will take hold whenever they move to an all-IP mode of content distribution.

Launched as an open standard in 2005 by Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony, Marlin DRM provides a general-purpose rights management architecture that seamlessly delivers robust DRM protection across all connected devices and is compatible with all the major operating systems, codecs, file formats, and distribution networks.

Marlin DRM is a studio-approved DRM solution used to protect motion picture studios, TV networks and other licensor’ content worldwide. This includes UHD and other high-value content that requires adherence to the Enhanced Content Protection (ECP) specification from MovieLabs, an entity jointly owned by a number of Hollywood studios, and specifically the ECP Compliance and Robustness (C&R) framework. Service providers are able to expedite C&R compliance because Marlin client SDK is pre-integrated with a vast ecosystem of chipsets that supports TEE and SVP as mandated by ECP.

The Marlin client SDK, based on the open-standard Marlin DRM specification as implemented by Intertrust, is approved for the highest value premium content including UHD thanks to meeting or exceeding the MovieLabs requirements.

Now serving as the native DRM on over 250 million active devices, and embedded in millions of additional devices ready for activation, Marlin DRM has been adopted as the certified DRM for a wide range of service platforms including the Japanese HTML5-based hybrid TV standard Japan Open IPTV; the Hollywood studios’ UltraViolet; the U.K.’s YouView hybrid STB framework; the French HD Forum’s TNT 2.0; and devices specified for use with Chinese OTT services such as iQIYI, Tencent, and PPTV.

In the second blog post of this two-part series we will take a closer look at Intertrust’s converged ExpressPlay XCA solution based on Marlin DRM. Please refer to the DRM Compatibility matrix for an overview of supported device types. For general information about Marlin and to access the technical specifications, please visit the Marlin Community.


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