Apr 21, 2017

Despite content protection vendors having done a great job protecting high-value content using CA and DRM solutions throughout the years, it is predicted that revenues lost to online piracy will nearly double between 2016 and 2022 to $51.6 billion. This is due, in part, to a new pandemic in pay-TV piracy caused by the redistribution of live sports and premium video-on-demand (VoD) content through illegal OTT streaming services.

Fortunately, there is a valuable technology that can be used to fight this new challenge, and it’s one that you are probably already familiar with.  Video watermarking has become a mature technology in recent years, and it is the most effective solution to track illegal redistribution of high value content and identify the source behind it.

Hollywood studios and digital cinema operators have been using video watermarking for many years. Furthermore, the guidelines published by MovieLabs in 2013 for Enhanced Content Protection have increased the awareness and adoption of forensic watermarking among pay-TV operators and OTT service providers. In more recent years, interest from large sports leagues and sports content owners has cast a brighter light on video watermarking as a valuable tool to fight this type of piracy, and even enforce requirements for tracing pirated content back to the last authorized user.

There are several use cases for forensic video watermarking, and this blog helps clarify the most effective watermarking techniques for each of use case.

Use Case #1: OTT Streaming

For those wanting to better protect premium VOD content across one of more types of OTT devices, we recommend a server-side approach to watermarking.  Solutions like our StreamMark server-side technology are well-suited for adaptive bitrate protocols such as HTTP Live streaming (HLS) and the industry standard MPEG-DASH.

Such a solution enables the insertion of an identifiable, robust and invisible mark into video content before it is delivered to the end device.  The uniquely marked streams can then be decrypted and played by all types of client devices.  This technique enables operators to trace piracy all the way to the last authorized user or subscriber of without requiring any integration with the client platform.

Our proprietary StreamMark solution is offered as a service via the Verimatrix Secure Cloud, which lets video service providers take advantage of VOD processing on AWS instances, which run alongside their own choice of encoder systems. The StreamMark payload manager component of our Secure Cloud also enables operators to uniquely generate and manage watermark payloads along with their own choice of CDN system. The full end-to-end StreamMark workflow is also available on AWS, including the unique playlist generation on AWS CloudFront CDN.

Another configuration of StreamMark, targeted to protecting live content in real-time, is the upcoming StreamMark Live solution. This configuration requires tighter integration of the StreamMark Live preprocessor with the live encoders to enable modification of video frames in real time to avoid any latency issues with the live content.

By taking any of these StreamMark server-side watermarking approaches to securing linear and live content, video service providers are able to protect their sports revenue by identifying the point of piracy and shutting down the illicit stream rapidly during the live event.

Use Case #2: B2B Distribution

While the first use case is specifically focused on subscriber watermarking, the second use case I want to highlight is focused on content watermarking for B2B applications. For watermarking to be effective in B2B content distribution, content aggregators and video service providers must embed originating watermarks that are to be distributed downstream.

StreamMark Origin is a derivative configuration that is specifically designed for this use case. This solution embeds uniquely identifiable secrets into VOD and live content, which are later distributed to operators and different networks, therefore enabling leaks to be identified in the media distribution chain.

Use Case #3: UHD Protection

The next use case is related to the emergence of UHD content and premium VOD services. Due to the fact that MovieLabs’ guidelines for Enhanced Content Protection recommend forensic video watermarking, the client-side VideoMark technology offers a robust watermarking solution by embedding a unique, session-based and invisible mark securely in the client device. VideoMark can be used for broadcast, multicast and unicast applications and supports both VoD and linear delivery of content to UHD set-top boxes and TVs. This technology in pre-integrated into state-of-the-art UHD chipsets and is available as part of the Verimatrix VCAS Ultra platform.

In addition to being a core component of VCAS Ultra, there are two main derivative configurations of the VideoMark product which are available as a standalone mode specifically for platforms that use non-Verimatrix CAS and DRM solutions. These are called “Standalone VideoMark for IP Networks” which is specifically targeted to IPTV, OTT, and hybrid IPTV-OTT networks with third-party DRM systems, and “Standalone VideoMark for Broadcast Networks” which is targeted to one-way DVB client devices that use third-party DVB CAS systems. 

Use Case #4: Real-time Extraction

In order to address the watermarking requirement of a live sports piracy use-case, VideoMark Live is a derivative of our client-side technology specifically designed for the protection of live sports targeted at broadcast and multicast applications. Because the value of a premium live sporting event drops significantly once the match is over, the main requirement is to protect the content during the event by quickly extracting the watermark payload and shutting down the source of piracy as it occurs. In this use case, instead of focusing on the invisibility and robustness of the mark against attacks that require substantial time to remove the mark (as strongly required for the Hollywood studio premium content), the solution relies on real-time extraction of the embedded unique identifier. This enables the service provider to take action against the source of piracy during the sporting event and prevent revenue loss caused by redistribution.

Use Case #5: Analyzing Video Files

Last but not least, a complete end-to-end watermarking product offering shall enable video service operators to extract embedded watermarking for all of the above solutions. The Verimatrix Reveal Service is a cloud-based platform that enables watermark payload extraction from video files or online streaming content for different configurations and derivatives of VideoMark and StreamMark technologies. The Reveal service, which is also hosted in the Verimatrix Secure Cloud, enables customers to analyze pirated content and identify the unique, embedded watermark and thus track the source of piracy within their own platform and network.

To learn more about our StreamMark, VideoMark or our watermarking capabilities in general, click below to access our solution briefs.

And we encourage you to visit us at IBC 2018 to experience a demo of our StreamMark capabilities.