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Challenges for Securing Revenue across Managed and Unmanaged Networks: A Look at NAB 2013 Trends

24 Apr 2013 | by Avni Rambhia
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NAB 2013 brought home three main themes for the digital media team at Frost & Sullivan:

1)    There’s a clear drive toward delivering media & entertainment solutions that control bottom line costs while growing top line revenues.

2)    Market conversations are shifting toward solutions focused on monetization rather than just products focused on delivery.

3)    An HEVC demo is the new must-have booth accessory.

Monetization of video is a particularly interesting challenge, since business models in the OTT and TV Everywhere space remain experimental and online revenues have yet to become significant contributors to MVPD businesses. That said, our recently released study on consumer video devices (executive summary attached below) shows that the devices industry is already in the throes of realizing the lucrative potential of ubiquitous video.

Examining segments including set-top boxes, smart phones, tablets, game consoles, smart TVs, IP streaming devices and more, we found that total unit shipments in 2012 were well past the 1 billion mark, with total revenues exceeding $350 billion. With device shipments on track to triple by 2017, operators across the globe are grappling to bring their ubiquitous video offerings to this critical new ecosystem of unmanaged devices in a scalable, secure fashion. Unmanaged is the key word here – managed set-top boxes only account for under 1/5 of all video-enabled devices shipped in 2012. At the same time, network traffic studies are consistently showing continued growth in long form content consumption on unmanaged devices.

Piracy of course is always a top of mind consideration for content owners and operators when deploying OTT/TE services. The issue gets more critical as live linear content and premium VOD content are delivered equivalently to managed and unmanaged devices in HD resolution.

It's not news to operators that, in contrast to the tightly controlled execution environment of set-top boxes, consumer owned and managed (COAM) devices are far more challenging platforms on which to secure content. Operators are cognizant of the need to support these myriad devices with compelling content offerings despite these challenges in order to minimize churn and remain competitive. The problem is, with revenues still small and business models yet unproven, operators are incurring this complexity and cost with limited upside ROI, particularly when they attempt to extend their traditional conditional access (CA) infrastructure to meet far more dynamic multi-screen needs.

In a white paper we just released, “Cardless Content Security: The Smarter choice for Hybrid Networks,” we examine how challenges like fragmentation of devices and networks and the need to deliver consistent user experiences across all screens can be more effectively overcome. We discuss industry-proven best practices in architecting security solutions for the next-generation ecosystem of multiple transmission networks and devices in a way that minimizes head-end complexity and ensures a future-proof investment.

We also look at how cardless CA and multi-rights DRM platforms are leveraging advances in software anti-tamper technology and silicon-based security measures to deliver cost-efficient, durable content security on the client side. The paper takes a close look at the VCAS solution from Verimatrix as an example of a best-in-class solution that delivers head-end simplification and scalability with robust client-side protection.

The future of the devices market and the security market are both promising to be interesting. Those at NAB couldn’t have missed the HEVC and 4K demonstrations that were running at nearly every booth. Widespread initiatives to deliver HD+ and 4K content to unmanaged devices raise a whole new set of content protection questions.

For example, screen captures of 4K content can easily yield very high quality SD content (perhaps even HD content) for recompression and subsequent piracy, and the incentive for professional hackers to pirate 4K content is thus much higher. Studios and content owners will almost certainly require stronger security standards in terms of encryption and usage enforcement for 4K content. At the same time, as we discuss in this same paper, it will also be important to rely on traitor tracing and piracy tracking technologies, such as watermarking and fingerprinting, to holistically manage this inevitable problem.

We will continue to track these developments in our research coverage of the encoding, transcoding and content protection markets. In the meanwhile, if you missed our recent webinar on our forecasted roadmap for products and services based on HEVC, you can catch the recording here.

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