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Friend MTS Launches 4K/UHD Watermarking and Monitoring for Live Sports Protection

UK content security developer specialist Friend MTS has launched a 4K/UHD variant of its ASiD (Anti -counterfeiting, Security, and Identification) service around NAB 2018.

AsiD has already enjoyed significant take up among sports broadcasters for tackling live stream piracy of standard HD content. Stream piracy has taken over from traditional forms of revenue theft such as control word sharing and card cloning as the major source of piracy, as content distribution shifts to IP, and can consume as much as 40% of all viewing in some markets. The threat is amplified further for UHD/4K content because of its greater value and scope for redistributing at high quality.

Friend MTS developed and demonstrated its ASiD monitoring at least three years ago but take up at first was slow while broadcasters were only just launching live OTT services and were not fully aware of the risks. They were also deterred by the relative complexity of detecting infringing live streams and taking appropriate action, which involves a combination of network forensics to identify it in the first place and forensic watermarking to locate the infringing sources such as set top boxes or OTT devices. The point is that in the case of live sports, unlike say blockbuster movie content, just pursuing pirates is not enough to combat the problem because by then the particular sports event is long over and business damage has already been done. Therefore, it is necessary to locate and take down infringing streams quickly within minutes before viewers have been able to enjoy much of the event.

Now Friend MTS has made the service easier to use by automating its global monitoring and watermarking service and making it scale properly for large live sports events which will typically generate thousands of pirate streams. Each one needs to be detected and blocked while the event is still going on. The company claims that by connecting directly with pay TV operators’ subscriber management systems, its ASiD allows thousands of pirate streams to be deactivated within minutes, which has been achieved for customers such as Sky Sports in Europe.

The service uses fingerprint-based content recognition to identify where broadcasters’ assets are being steamed in the first place, via a lightweight lookup. Then watermarking comes in by tracing back to the source of streams that are identified as being illicit. This is possible because unique watermarks associated with a given stream as initially broadcast are inserted before distribution to a given set top or OTT device. That set top or OTT device may appear as the destination a legitimate stream, although it may have been paid for via say a stolen credit card. But then after reception that stream may be retransmitted over the Internet illegally as part of a pirated service that may be monetized by subscription or even advertising. These streams are then the target of the AsiD service, which has now been extended to 4K/UHD.

“With the continuing growth in 4K/UHD channels, typically driven by sports and premium entertainment, there’s a pressing need to secure this content against streaming piracy,” said Neil Sharpe, Friend MTS Product Marketing Director. “Live sports is the toughest content genre to protect, due to the scale of the streaming piracy threat and the time dependence of the assets. The highly automated ASiD watermarking is optimized for this environment, and it also delivers the outstanding consumer experience sought by sports rights holders and movie studios,” concluded Sharpe.

Friend MTS has partnered with other vendors of security technology over stream piracy, including Verimatrix and Cisco.

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