Avni Rambhia's Blog

Can Motorola tug Google into the Content Club?

21 Aug 2011 | by Avni Rambhia
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Google is known for making information accessible. The search giant is beloved by end users for the easy search and ready experience it enables for content ranging from books to videos. However, what endears it to the masses has fostered significant distrust in the community it needs most to fulfill its GoogleTV ambitions - Hollywood in particular, and the M&E community at large. Until GoogleTV can win the right to deliver a significant library of compelling content to a broad range of Android-powered devices, reaching critical mass will be challenging. So far, this has not happened.

Two little acronyms - CA and DRM - have the power to change that, if deployed seamlessly and leveraged effectively. With the acquisition of Motorola, Google gains a little more than heavy ammunition to defend Android in the battle of the patents. It acquires a major conditional access technology, with the associated set top box deployment, patents, trusted brand name and content channel relationships. Combined with its low-profile acquisition of Widevine earlier this year, which has established security solutions and a strong installed base in key verticals like connected TVs, Google is quietly but surely filling in the pieces of the content jigsaw puzzle.

For quick background, CA or conditional access is the security scheme used by cable operators such as Comcast to protect their broadcast or PayTV content. DRM or digital rights managment is a per-title, per-user set of privileges that is used by services such as iTunes and Netflix to secure pay per download or over the top (OTT) content. As multi-screen delivery and on-demand models gain prominence, and CA systems transition from hardware to software, the line between CA and DRM is blurring somewhat.

Microsoft has an early lead in the DRM space, with a strong licensing community for its PlayReady (and legacy WMDRM) technology that powers many OTT and IPTV installations, but does not itself provide CA implementations. Irdeto, traditionally a leading provider of CA systems, has been making huge strategic strides in software-based systems to protect a broad range of content delivery models, partly through its acquisitions of Cloakware and Rovi's BD+ technologies. Viaccess also combines a strong pedigree in content protection across broadcast, unicast, over the top and multi-screen applications.  

With Widevine and Motorola tucked into its pocket, Google is the unexpected new entrant into the small club of companies who have full-fledged DRM, CA and watermarking platform capabilities. It also has partnerships with Intel, the custodian of link protection for premium content, and Adobe - both trusted copyright community partners. Will this be enough to propel it to becoming a mainstream source for the brave new frontiers of OTT? They are certainly off to the best start that money can buy.