Taking Video Security to the Cloud

By David Leporini, Viaccess-Orca

Cloud-Based DRM Historically, digital rights management (DRM) systems have been used by service providers to protect downloaded content for on-demand services, while guaranteeing secure delivery and management of media files. Yet, due to the complexities of today's OTT and multiscreen world, DRM technology is evolving, pushing the industry toward a cloud-based DRM approach that offers more flexibility, scalability, and support for a wider range of devices. This article will explore the reasons for migrating to cloud-based DRM and the key attributes an operator should look for in a DRM system that is hosted or deployed in the cloud.

Why cloud DRM?

Several factors have made cloud-based DRM a requirement in the pay TV environment. One reason is that operators today are increasingly relying on a combination of conditional access systems (CAS) along with DRM for secure multi-network content delivery, including streaming of content in unicast mode for both live and VOD services (i.e., OTT delivery). As a result, they need a DRM solution that offers flexibility, with support for multiple types of DRM technologies.

The recent explosion in adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming protocols has also impacted DRM technologies. Today's operators are delivering OTT multiscreen content to a wide range of devices using different ABR streaming protocols such as Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and MPEG-DASH. Operators need a DRM system that supports different content packaging and content protection formats like MPEG-DASH and Common Encryption Scheme (CENC).

In addition, the DRM market is becoming much more fragmented due to the deprecation of the plug-in APIs on the Google Chrome browser and the emergence of a DRM-per-device environment. This makes it essential that operators adopt a multi-DRM platform delivering DRM licenses for various devices, including set-top boxes (STBs), TV sets, PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

Advantages of cloud DRM

The main benefit of a cloud-based DRM system is that it reduces the complexity brought about by various content packaging formats, streaming protocols and DRM, enabling operators to manage everything from a single platform. Furthermore, cloud-based DRM makes it possible for operators to adopt a multi-DRM approach that is more conducive to today's multiscreen environment, resolving fragmentation issues. When it comes to delivering video content that may require real-time, on-the-fly packaging, such as network PVR (nPVR) and catch-up TV services, operators can leverage the scalability and elasticity of cloud infrastructures to securely deliver content to an unlimited number of subscribers, faster and more effectively than ever before.

What to look for in a cloud-based DRM system

In order to prepare content that can be viewed on any screen, operators need to choose a cloud DRM system that supports MPEG-DASH with CENC encryption for set-tops, PCs, and Android devices and a multi-DRM scheme (e.g., Microsoft PlayReady, Widevine) along with HLS for iOS devices, which don't allow applications streaming content over 3G/4G networks with another technology.

It's also important to minimize the number of profiles stored on origin servers so that sensitive content isn't put at risk while minimizing the storage cost of required content profiles. This can be accomplished by utilizing real-time, on-the-fly packaging capabilities and by reducing the number of streams that are cached at the CDN level, leveraging MPEG-DASH as much as possible, especially for live content.

Choosing a secure video player that includes an integrated DRM agent is also essential. This allows operators to provide a rich and consistent user experience for their premium video service that can scale on all Android and iOS devices.

As pay-TV operators look to protect premium content in the most affordable, flexible, and scalable way possible, a cloud-based DRM "as a service" solution is the ideal approach.

David Leporini is the executive vice president of marketing, products and security for Viaccess-Orca. Reach him at David.LEPORINI@viaccess-orca.com.

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