DRM Systems for Video Content Delivery Systems like IPTV and OTT - Big Picture View

Ajay Chaudhary, Director - Engineering & Head of Global Mobility Practice, GlobalLogic | Wednesday, 07 February 2018, 09:57 IST

DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems for video content delivery systems like IPTV and OTT play a key role.

Video is a premium content compared to other content formats like Audio, image etc. Any unauthorized access to the content is a revenue loss for Content producer or Service provider.

Movies from Sony like “Fury”, “Annie” were unfortunately leaked online and this resulted in direct revenue loss for the company.

At its core, DRM is a comprehensive set of hardware and software technologies, which provides protection of content ownership to the content provider.

If you are not able to download a Netflix movie or for the downloaded movie the viewing window has expired or your favorite movie is available in US but not in India, this is DRM implementation working behind the scenes.

RM broadly controls

• Number of times the content can be viewed by end user

• Sections of content a viewer can see

• Number of devices the content can be viewed

• Ability to copy, record or distribute content

• Time Window for content viewing

• Geo Restrictions

• In home content viewing / Out of home content viewing

• Offline usage restrictions

In Video delivery systems, DRM comes into picture when the entitlements for the users are in place.

Entitlement system essentially ensure if a viewer is authorized to view content in the first place. This is often managed by service provider middleware.

During the application startup process on client, app makes the necessary handshake with the entitlement systems to get the approved content list for end user.

Approved content list for the end user is based on the packages the user has subscribed or payments made by the user for watching specific content (Pay Per View).

For a service provider, having a strong DRM mechanism ensures that they can persuade different content providers to provide premium content for their end users. Content providers are assured that as the content is consumed in a secured way they do not miss the key monetization aspects of it.

In fact, many premium content providers will scrutinize closely the DRM implementation of the Service Provider or the content aggregator and then take a decision in terms of releasing content to Service provider.

This brings us to the point on using encryption mechanisms for protecting content.

Encryption can be one of the possible mechanism to protect content but given the high stakes involved, this is not a complete solution. Encryption provided basic access security.

However, if someone has access to the encryption key, then using the encryption key and the encrypted media asset, the content can gets easily distributed to multiple unauthorized users and playback is possible on any of the platform.

So at a broad level in DRM, unique identity is created for each viewing device of the end user and the license generated is specific for the user and viewing device.

Viewing device can be a smartphone, tablet, Windows Laptop, MacBook, Smart TV, Set-top box, Streaming box or even a gaming console.

This ensures that even if the media asset is copied from one device to another, it will not play in that device since the appropriate license for that device has not been generated. End user may encounter an invalid license kind of message.

At a high level the content consumption flow is

Popular Industry standard DRM Platform:

• PlayReady ( Microsoft)

• Widevine ( Google )

• Verimatrix VCAS

• FairPlay DRM ( Apple )

Apart from the obvious content security features other factors like License fees, CE devices supporting the DRM, integration efforts, ecosystem players, industry acceptance, impact on playback experience play a role in deciding the DRM platform of choice.

Many DRM libraries provide excellent support to browser based secure playback experience.

In fact, some premium sports channels like ESPN etc. have their own DRM systems and application should be able to integrate it seamlessly for displaying the content.

One of reasons why Apple App Store became popular is due to Apple’s FairPlay DRM. Apple was able to deliver premium content on Apple devices due FairPlay. Once the AppStore became popular, then Content providers wanted to be part of App Store ecosystem. This helped Apple eventually to bargain with content providers and make available content at reduced prices to end users. Network effect eventually helped Apple become a market leader. In fact, now some industry experts brand Apple as a media company.