The Sponsors Perspective: Protecting Content Is A Never-Ending Battle

For content providers (studios, content owners, content aggregators, or other content licensors) and their licensees (affiliates) operating in a multiplatform world - and pirates looking to obtain illegal access to the most popular content - it’s an unrelenting game of cat and mouse. While the internet has provided a cost-effective and easy way to deliver content to consumers, it also opens up new vulnerabilities that content pirates are eager to expose.


This article was first published as part of Essential Guide: Protecting Premium Content OTT And VOD Distribution

Piracy has become more sophisticated and it naturally changes constantly. Hackers and pirates continue to attempt new ways to attack different links in the supply chain. New threats are identified every few months.

In 2019 alone, digital piracy cost the U.S. film and TV industry at least an estimated $29.2 billion and as much as $71 billion, according to a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center.

Staying One Step Ahead

Security specialists are able to stay ahead of commercial piracy most of the time, but the war is never over. There are always numerous battles to fight, yet there is never a winner who can claim complete victory. Fighting piracy means constantly coming up with new ways to counter attacks, and a moving target is harder to hit.

Even the term “digital security,” which has been redefined multiple times since the dawn of the digital age, carries new meaning these days. Today it implies not only implementing software-based security technology (encryption or authentication) and the algorithms themselves, but also how security processes and procedures around content protection work. It also means that different authentication elements are now added to the pure encryption methods, to create various types of multi-layered protection systems. This makes them harder for pirates to exploit.

For Verimatrix and its customers, the very process of how digital security is implemented and managed between the source and the recipient has been extended across the entire content delivery chain. Using state-of-the-art technology with cloud-based edge computing, the company is now automating that entire end-to-end process with security infrastructures that can be managed remotely and effectively.

Optimizing Standards In Secrecy

The cloud-based Verimatrix Content Monetizer solution is based on various industry standards and goes a step further to include redundant signal paths, effective authentication methods, and safeguarded workflows to prevent piracy.

There is always a place for implementing proprietary solutions to prioritize security. At the end of the day, a sound, cost-effective security system enables content providers to gain a leg up in today’s highly competitive OTT environment. Standards define a general framework of how to implement security, but there is a need for specific implementation based on the user’s requirements and value of the content, which is the task ideally suited for security providers. And those implementations have to be kept secret from the outside world, for obvious reasons.

Verimatrix Content Monetizer reimagines the existing model of content distribution through cloud-based workflows that provide “always-on’ transparency, reporting accountability and revenue protection.

Verimatrix Content Monetizer reimagines the existing model of content distribution through cloud-based workflows that provide “always-on’ transparency, reporting accountability and revenue protection.

Protecting Content Increases Monetization

Content Monetizer can be used for delivering content through an affiliate (telcos, cable operators, broadcasters, or hybrid network operators) or it can be employed for a direct-to-consumer (D2C) OTT delivery model. For a wide range of customers, the system provides a high level of trust and confidence.

It includes tools for translating licensing terms defined by content providers — to the rights an affiliate is entitled to and when they can offer that content to viewers (often called a “release window”). As content is ingested and processed, metadata is added to each piece of content. This metadata typically includes security and entitlement policies including a content key for decryption at the receive site, EPG data and information about the content licensor, and where it can be consumed.

The content provider assigns all of these attributes to a specific affiliate — each affiliate can have different rules and entitlements as described in its content license agreement — or it can assign the same rules to a group of affiliates. They can also be assigned to a single linear program, on-demand title, or a collection of those within an OTT service from companies like Apple TV, Amazon, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix among others.

Content Monetizer also supports multiple availability zones and offers reliable region redundancy. The solution is built to automatically propagate all of the data across all of the regions where a media company’s operations are supported. If one zone goes down, it automatically switches to a second signal path. Therefore, the subscriber is always assured availability of the service. Subscriber data has shown that if the quality of the experience (QoE) is high, the consumer will order more services and stay loyal.

Managing Security Across The Entire Chain

Once the system is configured, it generates entitlements for each piece of content. Each affiliate is authenticated when logging in and can access content automatically from a continually updated list of “avails.”

The affiliate retrieves the content using the metadata they receive and passes on that access to the viewer. The viewer then accesses the content using a special authorization (software) token that gives access rights during a defined period of time. This token is issued for each piece of content and the device (or user) and used to track how the content is consumed. When the viewer requests playback of the content, it is automatically routed to an authentication end-point to get the playback license for this piece of content.

This is how affiliates manage the access of each specific device. The same workflow is employed for D2C services. And this all happens in real time or in advance as pre-authorization (for live events as an example).

DRM Strengthens Monetization

For those looking to monetize their assets while keeping content secure (and who isn’t?), digital rights management (DRM) technology is applied by Verimatrix all along the way, from the content provider to the consumer’s display device. All industry-standard DRMs are pre-integrated. Third-party multi-DRM solutions can be easily plugged-in and proprietary DRM services from traditional CA vendors can also be applied if a service provider has an existing security platform in place.

The ability to embed watermarking in every piece of content is key to not only deter piracy, but also to maximize monetization. The content can be marked for whichever affiliate is using a specific piece of content or it can be marked for the end user. This allows the content provider to trace distribution of each piece of content and to track piracy and leakage to the source.

During content processing, Verimatrix applies security tags as the content leaves the provider’s facility (typically a cloud-based library) and it remains protected all the way to the DRM edges. This can be done on multiple levels to counter system attacks.

Verimatrix offers each customer a dashboard with real-time view behavior and QoE analysis tools to oversee the content lifecycle. This real-time usage data is essential to:

  • Automate royalty reporting
  • Accelerate revenue recognition
  • Allow marketers to determine what content is most popular
  • Help better decision making regarding infrastructure and business models

Among the most successful scenarios is one where the content goes from the software player to the hardware processing engine, where it is decrypted, decoded and rendered on the user’s display screen using HDMI’s High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol. In this scenario, content never leaves the protected environment until it is displayed on the viewer’s screen. Even then, if someone tried to illegally record the content with a video camera pointed at the screen, a watermark is embedded in the picture. Content providers can extract this watermark from the illegal recording and use it as forensic evidence in court proceedings against offending pirates.

The Battle Wages On

So, as the battle against content piracy wages on, new technologies will be refined and able to be deployed within minutes if required. When a security breach occurs, time is of the essence and must be addressed immediately.

There will always be points of potential failure in any content security system, and that’s why Verimatrix has deployed its system in the cloud—to ensure high redundancy and high availability.

Protecting content is more important than ever in today’s digitally connected world. With a SaaS model designed to ensure fast and secure on-boarding of content, full analytical monitoring, and 24/7 uptime, Verimatrix remains highly focused on providing rock-solid protection and high availability for any piece of content—no matter where it originally resides.

With content safeguards that travel with the asset, enforcement of license terms and a reliable and intuitive way of affiliate reporting, content providers have a great chance fighting against piracy. 

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