As Pay TV Flocks To Devices, Multi-DRM Can Make Or Break Service Success

[This is a guest post by my Frost & Sullivan colleague Avni Rambhia]

It’s no longer news that TVE and OTT have graduated from experimental endeavors to full-fledged service delivery channels. On metrics such as subscriber growth, growth in hours viewed, and growth in advertising revenue – OTT services are surpassing traditional Pay TV services. That is not to say that OTT services are fully monetized today. Revenue generation, whether ad-based, transactional or subscription, remains an ongoing challenge for TVE/OTT services despite growing uptake and aggressive infrastructure investments.

The quest to bring a consistent, managed-quality experiences to  an unruly stable of unmanaged devices is a formidable challenge. Maintaining support across all past and present devices in the face of changing streaming and delivery standards is an undertaking in its own right. Nonetheless, secure multimedia delivery holds the key to delivering premium content to subscribers. With competing services only a few clicks away, ongoing growth relies heavily on the ability to deliver a service transparently across the many underlying DRM systems, device platforms, browsers and streaming protocols currently in use and on the horizon.

HTML5, with its related EME and CDMi standards, was envisioned as a way to unify cross-platform fragmentation and simplify cross-platform app development and content delivery. Things didn’t quite materialize that way, with the result that content companies will need to manage secure content delivery and handle back-end license and subscriber management across all major DRM platforms. While there is a perception that “DRM is free”, stemming primarily from the royalty-free nature of Widevine and the falling costs of PlayReady licensing, in reality the total cost of ownership is quite high. Moreover, DRM needs to be treated as a program rather than a project, subject often to unexpected spikes in R&D and testing overhead when a new operating system is released, a new device surges in popularity, old technology is deprecated, the DRM core itself is revised, or when a new standard takes hold. While the client side of the problem is often the first concern, server-side components play an important role in service agility and scalability in the longer run.

As part of our content protection research coverage at Frost & Sullivan, we took an in-depth look at factors affecting the total cost of ownership for both content companies (including broadcasters, new media services and video service operators) as well as OVPs who are increasingly outsourcing OTT workflows on behalf of content companies. The findings from this research are reported in a new white paper sponsored by Verimatrix. We’ll be discussing many of these factors, and their real life impact on customers, during a live webinar on Wednesday September 28th at 10am ET. Divitel will be joining to discuss their experiences first hand.

As we’ll talk about in the webinar, agility and scalability are crucial to OTT services as TV by appointment fades away and customers continue to trend towards device-first viewing behavior. While some companies may have the engineering talent and budget capacity to build and maintain their own multi-DRM infrastructure, our best practice recommendation in the majority of cases is to work with a security specialist vendor instead of going DIY. If you would like to share your own stories, whether as a vendor or a customer, or if you have any questions about DRM and available options, feel free to comment here or reach out to Avni Rambhia, Industry Principal, ICT/Digital Transformation at Frost & Sullivan.