After trying to do it themselves, nearly 70% of operators end up outsourcing their DRM solution. To help explain why, Verimatrix and experts from Frost & Sullivan and Divitel recently conducted a webinar focused on the true cost of DRM. Attended by hundreds of industry professionals, the webinar delved into what misconceptions have influenced operators’ decision making, and the best practices you can adopt to avoid making these same mistakes. We had some great questions during the webinar and so we thought we'd share our responses.
Questions About Trends:
Question: If trends continue, is it possible that we won’t need a multi-DRM solution and something like Widevine is going to be sufficient to cover everything?
Answer: It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? But, we don’t see that happening. There is a perception that Widevine is blossoming into a catch-all solution. It’s driven by the growth of Android and the growing popularity of Chrome. But, we see this as a multi-DRM world.
In the Apple ecosystem, FairPlay Streaming (FPS) protection is important. PlayReady protection continues to play a very strong role in smart TVs, data consoles and PCs. A lot of individual CA players have their own DRM systems. Widevine is playing a growing role, but we definitely don’t see it as “one ring that binds them all.”
Question: Do you think a cloud-based transcode solution will eliminate the need for a multi-DRM solution in the future in typical OTT service deployments?
Answer: We see multi-DRM solutions (e.g., commercial solutions like those from Verimatrix) as entirely complementary to cloud-based transcode solutions. Selecting “best in breed” suppliers from both categories can enable the video operator to offer the best and most competitive service.
The transcoding tends to integrate tightly with the encryption that happens before the packaging and the outbound video, so these components work in lockstep together. In fact, with the rise of the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) standard and HTML5, there’s quite a bit of uniformity in terms of how those packages are encrypted and how they are put together.
But, we don’t see an elimination of multi-DRM. If anything, it becomes even more important that integration be done in a consistent way because the license transaction, the identity management, and the device authentication all still happen in the context of the particular consumption platform. So when looking at the differences in how an iOS device, gaming console and a particular streaming media device transact – they all transact the license and achieve the authentication in different ways. As a result, you very much need a multi-DRM system to reach them.
Question: CMAF is supporting HLS and DASH playback out of the same container including CENC. Do you see CMAF as a chance to make DRM delivery easier to end devices?
Answer: “Yes” and “No.”
“Yes.” Because a truly common encryption format will allow a common underlying stream format, thus reducing the number of streams required to service all devices (regardless of whether HLS, DASH or another is used for actual delivery).
“No.” Because of the continuing (and likely permanent) DRM fragmentation across browsers, devices, etc., DRMs will still need to be utilized for the actual delivery of keys and policies to the end devices to support decryption.
The topic is interesting because Verimatrix has mechanisms to allow key/policy distribution from a single encryption head-end to downstream key/license servers. We refer to this multi-tiered distribution as Federated Rights Management. Common encryption (and CMAF) is particularly valuable in this scenario because it allows the content to be encrypted once, with the keys/policy servers pushed closer to the edge, and then ultimately delivered using the DRM(s) of choice for final and one-time decryption in the end devices.
Verimatrix is in the process of supporting CMAF.
Questions About Implementation:
Question: What are the differences regarding costs to implement multi-DRM for mobile apps (iOS, Android) or mobile Web browser apps?
Answer: There aren’t any fundamental cost differences between the two scenarios. From a server-side (license server, rights management) perspective, the devices look effectively equivalent. There may be cost differences in player development between the two scenarios, but they shouldn’t differ by any significant amount. For more information on cost-specifics, I suggest checking out a brand new white paper from Frost & Sullivan called Build or License: The Multi-DRM Quandary for Online Video Publishers.
Question: How is the cost of the platform scaled? By the number of end customers? Does this include a per customer cost or only the DRM core?
Answer: In general, the cost (and complexity) of a system does scale based upon the number of subscribers/devices. However, multiple business models are available depending upon the requirements of the video operator.
Based on Divitel’s experience helping smaller operators (from about 10,000 subscribers) scale, the Divitel platform is unlimited in terms of scalability; however, as customers are added, the platform expands equipment hardware and adds more services, which increase operational expense.
When you are building a platform you require a certain amount of hardware (servers, rack space, etc.), but while you’re updating, upgrading and connecting more and more customers, you need to expand. The moment you need to add some equipment, you may also need to place some load balancers, different kinds of firewalls or firewall configurations. In fact, the tangible elements of the platform are going to require lots of attention when adding subscribers. The intangible aspects associated with the total cost of ownership will also grow – but not as much as the tangible aspects of the hardware.
Question: Can you talk about how Verimatrix differs from, or works with, OTT platform providers such as MLBAM, NeuLion, ThePlatform, Kaltura, etc.? Do they do what Verimatrix does, or does Verimatrix complement them?
Answer: We complement them. OVPs, such as these, are partners who may desire to utilize an off-the-shelf and supported multi-DRM solution (like VCAS) rather than build their own DRM technology. Their investment dollars are likely better utilized on differentiating functionality (user experience, video quality, system scaling, device coverage, etc.) and content licensing rights. In fact, this is a good example of our relationship with Divitel.
From that perspective, Divitel is in a unique situation – it is not a producer of the service delivery platform or VOD service. Instead, it designs, builds and maintains an entire platform, while also adopting existing infrastructure so it can help migrate video service providers from the past to the present and into the future. And while doing so, it works with the best components and the best technology possible. The combination of Divitel, as a system integrator, and Verimatrix, as a revenue security technology provider, is a powerful combination.
Questions about Verimatrix/MultiRights:
Question: Which DRMs does Verimatrix support?
Answer: Verimatrix supports Google Widevine, Microsoft PlayReady, Adobe Primetime and Apple FPS. Our harmonized rights management logic provides a unified treatment for devices using different DRMs and stream formats. The solution performs the authentication, entitlement checking, secure key delivery, jailbreak detection, output policy enforcement, etc. We utilize Apple’s FLS server-side SDK for key over-encryption as an added level of security because it provides for some level of “device personalization.”
Question: For which use case is Verimatrix’s own DRM scheme needed in terms of multi-DRM with PlayReady, Widevine and FairPlay?
Answer: There are many technical reasons why customers select our Verimatrix DRM versus others. However, note that FPS is not really a DRM but is, instead, a mechanism for link-level key over-encryption (and thus more secure key delivery). It still requires a true DRM for actual “rights management” and authentication, etc. Our own VCAS/ViewRight DRM supports FPS as an option (as well as supporting HLS streaming without the use of FPS).
In general, Verimatrix customers prefer to use our DRM on most devices for technical and commercial reasons. Our DRM supports all of the device categories (iOS, Android, PC, Mac, STB, smart TVs) and is studio approved. In addition, we also offer watermarking, as well as additional studio-required security and hardening for jailbreak/rooting detection, output copy control, etc. Our customers typically utilize our MultiRights PlayReady, Widevine or Adobe Primetime license servers (alongside VCAS/ViewRight DRM) to deliver content to those devices that are essentially “closed,” like Chrome browser, Edge browser, Chromecast, XBox, etc.
Question: When you provide a multi-DRM solution, does your customer still need to work with Widevine or PlayReady to get the commercial approval from them directly?
Answer: Yes. Verimatrix customers require a commercial/licensing relationship with Google or Microsoft to deploy the technology; we can help facilitate the dialog with those companies.
Question: Could you share with us more details about the Verimatrix business model?