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Content Protection – more things to consider

Journal Article from Friend MTS

Thu 11, 08 2022

Nik Forman

Marketing Director, Friend MTS


Summary of report by Roger Thornton, IABM

Overall, the prioritization of business and consumer trends over pirate-driven ones was consistent across different types of media businesses. However, while pirate-driven trends were ranked as less important, most of them were classified as high priority, with cross-border illegal access to content and security breaches leading to content leakages identified as more important due to the Covid pandemic.

With most businesses predicting their original content investment will increase significantly over the next few years, it seems counter-intuitive that content protection solutions are not a primary business priority given the increase in piracy activity in all its various forms. One of the reasons behind this is the complexity of the advanced content protection landscape, which constantly needs to counter pirate-driven innovation. This means high budgets for content protection and a struggle to keep up with fast-paced developments effectively. In summary, the effects of complexity on technology understanding and pricing are important factors determining media businesses’ deprioritization of content protection technology.

Response to data and analysis circulated in IABM report sponsored by Axinom

The recent IABM report on content security trends in conjunction with our good friends at Axinom made for some interesting reading. As Roger Thornton mentions in his summary article, perhaps the most surprising takeaway is the discrepancy between a stated intention to invest in content, and a far lower priority in investment in content security technology to safeguard against the theft of that content, especially given the financial, operational and potentially creative resources that will be required to produce or acquire it. As Roger summarises, this seems counterintuitive, but budgets are finite and it could be argued that prioritizing content over business processes is where dutiful media providers should concentrate their majority resource.

However, with 80% of respondents indicating the high importance of DRM, and 55% already implementing watermarking technology, it’s clear that using technology to prevent unlawful acquisition and redistribution of content is seen as a critical business driver.

The excellent analysis provided towards the end of the report informs a list of positive and negative drivers of investment in content protection solutions, and as a provider of such products and services, these are the elements that drive the conversations that we have with our customers around the world.

First to the positive drivers:

Content security is no different to other media technologies – the most attractive solutions are those that offer both technical and commercial flexibility. Additionally, the ability to provide digital flexibility without impacting quality of product is key, and with the evolution of technologies such as client-composited watermarking, which is deployed at point of delivery, this flexibility has come a long way and continues to evolve. Crucially, this flexible architecture not only benefits the user operationally, but also enables providers such as Friend MTS to more easily keep pace with ever-evolving piracy technology.

It's no surprise that the other positive drivers all reflect the near-lockstep relationship between content value and the requirement to protect it, with sports and scripted content at the top of this pyramid, and lower-cost, niche programming appearing as a negative driver of investment. The world of video is ever-expanding, however, and the proliferation of unique content across non-traditional environments (for example content creators, corporate and other enterprise users) is already driving an increased requirement for video content security services in these non-traditional sectors.

The negative drivers of investment in content security are, if anything, of greater interest to providers such as Friend MTS; these represent areas of concern to users, and are the issues around which we need to continue to engage with our audiences, to provide greater clarity, if required, and guidance on the most efficient and cost-effective content security solution for every customer’s specific content types and distribution models.

The primary issue to address is at the top of the table, thus stated in the report analysis: “The effects of complexity on technology understanding and pricing are important factors determining media businesses' deprioritization of content protection technology.”

Again, it’s not surprising that a perceived lack of transparency of technology, convoluted pricing structures and a potentially bewildering array of solutions from which to choose are off-putting to buyers. Simple questions such as “Which is the best DRM solution for my organisation?” or “How much should I budget for a watermarking solution?” often don’t have easy answers, and although this is never for reason of deliberate complexity, or to create an aura of mystique, it’s clear that these are areas that can, should and are being addressed by technology providers to help customers arrive at the solution that best fits their requirements as painlessly as possible. As an industry we’re improving, but obviously work remains to be done.

The good news is that, as pointed out by respondents, there continues to be a noticeable move away from previous levels of complexity around security solutions, driven primarily by new technology and deployment models. In the field of watermarking, for example, extremely lightweight, client-composited watermarking can now be deployed in as little as two weeks, with minimal impact on existing infrastructure. This type of watermarking is now amongst the most widely deployed in the world, bringing the obvious commensurate business benefits, and is a direct result of the drive to provide simpler solutions and less complex deployment. Of course, there are different types of watermarking, and some may be more suitable for certain content types and distribution models; likewise with DRM, CAS management, and other content security services such as monitoring and enforcement. The key is understanding how this potentially complex environment fits together, and which components will do the right job for each individual customer’s content model and distribution environments – and communicating this to them clearly and effectively. The mission-critical foundation that underpins this entire process is independent, agnostic advice based on expertise, operational environment analysis and business intelligence. In short, when looking to implement a content security environment, make sure you consult a proven expert who won’t just sell you what’s on their particular van.

Finally, the report touches on platforms and providers, and the role that they can play in anti-piracy efforts; this importance cannot be overstated, and the efforts that large-scale platforms such as YouTube already undertake are to be applauded. Each dedicates significant resources to anti-piracy measures, and the ability to engage and collaborate with them is vital to the monitoring and enforcement services operated by companies such as Friend MTS. As before, work remains to be done, but increased collaboration between platforms, ISPs and other service providers continues to reap rewards. As an example, a recent program of close data collaboration between a major ISP and Friend MTS led to a 90% reduction in illegal streaming of certain content on their platform, and it is this type of collaboration and business analysis that continues to be the way forward in the fight against content piracy.

The IABM and Axinom report has some obvious takeaways for content security providers, and I’d like to thank both for their work in producing it. The research defines some clear goals – most notably greater flexibility and a drive to reduce complexity – and although we know that we’ve some way to go, I am happy to say that we’ve already come a long way towards achieving them.

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