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The Shifting DRM Landscape

Johan Alfvén

Product Director

May 24, 2022


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There are a number of reasons - such as rising competition and an increase of high-profile content streamed directly to OTT - that make it more important than ever to keep content secure and protected. It is not surprising, that Digital Rights Management (DRM) has become a hot topic for many video service providers. We spoke to three industry experts about the growing importance of DRM and what developments we can expect to see in this area over the coming couple of years.

The growing importance of DRM

According to Gaurav Mittal, Product Manager at Irdeto, DRM has become increasingly business critical, evolving into an enabler beyond just the delivering of encryption keys. This sentiment is echoed by Tomica Gril, Solution Architect at CastLabs, who explains: “every month we have more license requests. This is not just because of more end users, but because more content is being DRM protected.” In the past, some of this content would have used simple protection, but Gril comments that the trend is now shifting towards DRM as standard.This vast growth in demand for DRM is being fueled by a number of factors.

Growth in live streaming

Alison Kolodny, Product Manager at JW Player, comments that we have seen a huge growth in both live streaming and cord cutting over the past decade and this trend has been further fueled by reasons due to the global pandemic. As Kolodny points out: “when the pandemic hit, the demand for VOD, live events, and even e-learning grew even more.” She also comments that since this type of content is instrumental in driving revenue for video businesses, they simply cannot afford to run the risk of it being stolen.As more content is now being delivered directly over-the-top, the need for DRM has become more central than ever. As Irdeto’s Mittal points out: “the gap between the theatrical and OTT streaming window is continually being reduced. Many releases even premiere directly on OTT. And we also see sports rights being acquired and streamed by OTT services.” The growth in live streaming, as well as consumers' increased willingness to pay extra for high value content, is obviously great news for video content providers. However, it also makes an interesting proposition for piracy.

Plethora of platforms and services

There are more streaming devices and platforms than ever before, each with different security requirements, and each struggling with different ways in which content to be stolen. Simple content protection methods are no longer viable in a fragmented, multi-device landscape.The wide variety of video service types, ranging from ad funded to subscription, has made it more important than ever to have DRM systems that can keep content protected regardless of the business model. Gaurav Mittal particularly mentions track keys, key rotation, and DRM-based concurrency management as topics that are increasingly relevant to Irdeto’s customers.

Rise of UHD

According to Tomica Gril, one of the biggest drivers of DRM is the “increase in the number of devices that can display UHD (ultra high definition)''. He mentions how it is no longer enough to just have a DRM system, “you also need to adapt it according to the content and the device it is being played on.” For example, UHD content may need to be protected to prevent playback on non HDCP 2.2 compliant devices. These kinds of examples add another dimension to DRM requirements.

Anyone can be a reporter

Video production and distribution used to only be relevant for broadcasters. Now, as Gril points out: “anyone can be a reporter and stream content directly from a mobile phone.” Alison Kolodny agrees: “DRM is no longer just for big broadcasters, we are seeing new use cases opening up all the time.” If anyone can create content, there will naturally be an increase in the number of video creators needing some level of protection. While it is unlikely that a consumer capturing footage for social media will be interested in DRM, the number of use cases keep increasing.

Navigating DRM challenges

According to Kolodny, many video service providers are still challenged with understanding DRM. She explains: “It is common that they have begun to license content from major studios or have secured rights to live stream sports. The big question for them then becomes how to adhere to stringent security requirements put in place by the content providers.” For companies who have not used DRM before, this can be confusing and they may need help understanding and integrating it into their workflow.Gril adds that CastLab’s customers are mainly concerned with how to play DRM-protected content across various devices and platforms while minimizing cost. “The first question we ask our customers is which platforms they need to deliver to.

Once we know that, we need to take many factors into account, such as streaming format, DRM schemes, and encryption mode supported on those platforms. Generally, we are looking for the lowest common denominator that supports all platforms but keeps the ceiling costs as low as possible.”In order to navigate these challenges, content providers need DRM solutions that enable advanced features, are resilient, and at the same time simple to use. Mittal highlights: “DRM should be resilient, have always-on availability, and failover management. Solutions need to be scalable to support both organic growth and peak demand for high profile events. At the same time, they need to enable better security without impacting the user experience.”

The future is secure

The interest in DRM is likely to increase further over the coming years. According to Kolodny “the need is only growing and opening up new use cases” while Mittal adds: “DRM will become even more business critical.” Gril also agrees: “there will be an increasing demand to deliver content in a secure way.”Amidst growing demands, DRM solutions will need to continuously evolve to ensure that they can meet new use cases. Gril believes that we will see a standardization of the landscape where one DRM solution can work across multiple platforms. He also believes we will see “more effort on watermarking and protecting content from leaks.”In addition, Kolodny foresees that we will see more content protection services arise and that “digital watermarking will be more prevalent for studios and sports content.” Mittal agrees “DRM is but one piece of the puzzle in protecting content. On top of watermarking, monitoring and detection are necessary tools to protect premium content, particularly for live sports where a fast response is required.”There are already a number of DRM solutions that provide strong levels of protection for video content providers. As demand continues to grow, we will likely see these optimized and standardized even further, making it even easier for video providers to keep content protected across multiple platforms for various types of content.

We recently launched support for multiple Digital Rights Management (DRM)solutions in our Accedo One cloud platform. Find out more about Accedo One and its available integrations here.

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