Unpacking digital rights management

FKT Magazin 1-2/2021
Rights and Licenses
Cloud Solutions

For many, 2020 has been the year of staying home. As a result, VOD and SVOD providers have reaped the benefits of a massive increase in home viewing caused by stay-at-home measures. The global streaming market was worth $42.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow more than 20 percent per year to reach a total of $184.3 billion by 2027. Traditional media like cinema has suffered greatly as film companies have pushed their content straight to on-demand streaming giants such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

However, the pandemic and resulting restrictions have only accelerated this shift of big blockbusters to the small screen, and arguably this change has been on the horizon for years. With more and more consumers expecting on-demand experiences in all areas of their lives, the huge popularity of streaming services is not unsurprising. With this rise in consumer demand has been an increasingly saturated market of content providers, all looking to provide unique value.

With competition high, streaming service providers must protect their users’ access to such assets in order to maintain a sustainable and profitable business model. By monetising existing content, the basis can be built for more valuable content to be created in the future.

The challenge of preventing unauthorised access and piracy is not just confined to on demand video, with live events and businesses in sectors such as education realising the need to manage their content to create or protect revenue streams. As such, content owners need to understand how to protect their valuable video assets – here are some of the best ways to do it.

New channels for consuming content
Digital rights management (DRM) tools provide a systematic approach to copyright protection of digital media, restricting how consumers can view, copy and redistribute purchased content. For any business that wants to monetise its content, considering DRM from the outset of content creation is vital. But implementing this technology isn’t as simple as flicking a switch to turn it on. There are numerous factors that content distributors need to account for when successfully protecting their content.

For example, the variety of devices and software types available to consumers that they may utilise to consume content must be considered. Encryption standards can vary by country, while compatibility with different browsers can be impacted by regular updates and changes. Although encryption standards such as CENC have gone a long way in creating aligned rules, content providers also need to be aware of slight differentiations between the way Google, Apple and Microsoft run their servers, via FairPlay, PlayReady and Widevine respectively, to ensure effective DRM integration.

There are myriad ways for consumers to be consuming content in this highly fragmented landscape, so it important for content providers to partner with the right supplier that fully understands the complexities and challenges presented.

The benefits of cloud
Cloud-based DRM systems provide greater scalability and reduced costs from efficient use of licences. Along with the inclusion of geo-location services through the DRM system, providers can also utilise a cloud-based service to check the IP address of a user to determine their location.

By moving their DRM to the cloud, content providers are also able to benefit from the expertise and management of their supplier, which can be expensive or time-consuming to ensure if the system is hosted on-premise. These are the key reasons why more and more content providers see this route as the way forward.

The need for flexibility and scalability
A rigid one-size-fits-all approach to DRM is not feasible for content owners because subscription services must be flexible in their offering to users and often see huge spikes in demand anticipated around the launch of exciting new content, meaning flexibility and scalability are vital.

A sophisticated token system could be crucial in helping content providers traverse this complex minefield. This system gives true flexibility, enabling the business to grant specific rights to specific users for a particular piece of content. As an example, for video on demand, if a user initially opts to watch a video via pay-per-view, but soon after changes to a subscription model to enable further viewing of that same piece of content, the new rights that now apply to that user can be instantaneously delivered to them by the content provider. This enables content providers to lure consumers in with competitive entry-level offers, and then seamlessly switch their access when needed.

A token system also plays a key role in restricting content in instances where geographical requirements may need to be considered. It can help inform licence servers to implement the appropriate geo-location standards for each user, apply rules based on whether the rights allow viewers to access content based on their location. Alongside geographical demands, content providers also need to ensure that they are prepared to cater for peak times in demand, which for example could include live events in the sporting calendar such as World Cup games.

Finding support to grasp the new opportunities
In 2020 we have seen the power of video content to keep people connected, entertained and educated at home and the true value of the content has become clear to everyone. Unfortunately, the divergencies in how Google, Apple and Microsoft and Google manage DRM technologies has increased the complexities and in order to simplify these differences it has become essential to find the right technology partner to act as the go-between.

However, with the right external support, many of the challenges involved in digital rights management can be taken away from the content providers so they can devote their attention to making the most of the new opportunities arising from the sky-high demand for video streaming services.