Interviews, Special Reports

On Your Guard

Chrys Poulain, NexGuard’s sales director for APAC, France, Middle East and Africa, tells Vinita Bhatia that with rising piracy, it is crucial for all stakeholders in the content production chain to safeguard their assets and lessen the effects of its illegal access and distribution.

How has content security threat to the broadcasting industry intensified in recent times?
The battle against video piracy has grown: from smartphone-toting movie theatre goers to organised crime, pirates continually exploit consumer demand to develop increasingly sophisticated infringement methods to spread their distribution footprint. This presents a vital need for everyone along the content production chain, including broadcasters, to lessen the consequences of illegal access and distribution by safeguarding their assets.

While Conditional Access (CA) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) work to control unauthorized access to content before intended users access their content, and takedown notices can help broadcasters affected by content infringement legally mandate its removal from unauthorized sources, these methods aren’t as effective without forensic watermarking. It is therefore incumbent that broadcasters keep this range of fundamental pre- and post-access technologies in mind, or at the very least explore what other combination of multifaceted protective measures work best for video security.

Has the emergence of OTT propelled TV broadcasters to take content security more seriously?
The OTT sector is on the brink of a huge surge over the next four years in APAC with revenues forecast to reach $10.9 billion in 2020, up 1920% since 2010’s $0.54 billion, according to a new Digital TV Research project. Concurrently, the proliferation of broadband Internet availability has opened doors for a blitzkrieg of content theft, copyright infringement and illegal re-streaming. Illegal redistribution of content, for instance, costs the Indian film industry over $3.34 billion and 60,000 jobs every year.

Aware of this growing threat, more broadcasters are realising the imminent industry growth and corresponding threat that piracy could hold. India’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd is the latest broadcaster in India to take the step to protect its high value assets on 33 domestic and 38 international channels that reach over one billion viewers in 171 countries.

Are certain domains in broadcast TV, like live sports, more susceptible to content security threats or piracy?
Yes – pay TV and pay streaming service providers, sports leagues and even the fans in the sports broadcasting ecosystem stand to suffer the most as live content is illicitly redistributed by pirates.

Premium live sports remains the number one driver of subscriber attraction and retention for pay TV operators, and demand for online access through fixed and mobile devices has forced operators to make live content available across multiple platforms. The medley of faster consumer broadband, powerful search and social media, however, has boosted the popularity of illegal live streaming sites, making it easier for consumers to find and stream premium sports content from unauthorized platforms.

It is, therefore, crucial that pay TV providers deploy protective solutions like forensic watermarking that enable them to tackle the illegal redistribution of their content.

As broadcasters deliver on multi-platform content, like social media, OTT and radio, how can they integrate the highest levels of security within their business operations?

Sources with pirated content can often look so professional that fans mistake them for legal ones, often even charging a monthly subscription fee for access. As the past UEFA Euro 2016 was live streamed on Facebook and the Olympics Games Rio 2016 live streamed on YouTube in some regions, this has further blurred the lines for fans between official and unofficial content providers and social platforms. Live streaming services like Periscope and Meerkat have made it even easier for consumers to illegally stream live broadcasts, complicating the industry even more.

To ensure broadcasters have the highest levels of integrated content security to protect their high value assets across various delivery platforms, it is crucial that they employ a protection arsenal to address the threat of piracy across the entire pre- and post-production chain that shields all video quality from the low resolution of Periscope and Meerkat up to 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

What were some traditional content protection methods adopted by TV broadcasters?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), CA and DRM are three integrated security measures traditionally adopted by TV broadcasters. CA and DRM control unauthorized access to programming before intended users access content. With CA, the rights owner licenses networks to take on the responsibility of determining the legitimacy of users who want content access – through subscriber management systems, subscriber authorization systems and security modules.

Comparatively, DRM works best for OTT content delivered to multi-screen devices for consumers who want to access content immediately or at a later time. Although both measures succeed at blocking out piracy efforts, there remains a window for illicit seizing through video sharing, which coincides with precisely why the DMCA was enacted.

As a direct result of industry demand to implement copyright law to combat piracy, broadcasters can issue takedown notices to legally mandate the removal of infringed content from unauthorized sources, which may often be a result of illicit sharing.

What are some new innovations in this area?
Forensic watermarking for HDR content is an innovation on the rise. With improved detail preservation due to increased contrast and sharper colour, HDR provides a revolutionary improvement to video quality, particularly for premium content, and there is an increasing commitment from broadcasters to embrace it. Concurrently comes the pirates’ ability to develop new forms of illegal extraction and redistribution methods, so broadcasters have to be very proactive at protecting both their assets and the expected ROI before significant investment is made into creating HDR content.

Watermarking of HDR content has been in practice for years in digital cinema, which has greatly assisted the forensic watermarking industry in adapting it for the pay TV and online video market.

Is forensic watermarking available as a cloud service?
Absolutely – forensic watermarking is adaptable for both cloud services and assets delivered via cloud. With the insertion of an invisible watermark into a media asset that provides the content itself and its owner with a joint unique identifying code, NexGuard can enforce contractual compliance between the content owner and its intended recipient.

When misuse occurs, namely when content rights are violated, the watermarking technology can identify the source of the leak and automatically trace it back to the respective culprit. By warning their viewers that its premium live content has been watermarked and can be traced back to them, broadcasters can create a strong deterrent against illegal distribution. This has already proven effective in reducing the volume of video piracy, and will be a key aspect of content protection as the distribution of streaming video over the cloud increases globally.

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