Over the top content is a $144B growth opportunity for video service operators (VSOs). Consumer devices will outsell set-top boxes by a factor of 10 in 2017, and online video subscribers will more than double by 2021 even as conventional Pay TV subscribers continue to stagnate. As OTT delivery of premium video is growing, and the use of full-fledged DRM to secure this content is growing as well. This is a challenging problem as operators need to reach upwards of ten classes of devices (such as tablets, Smart TVs and media streaming devices) from over a hundred vendors. The endeavor can start out simply enough by building an iOS app for Apple’s iPad and iPhone and creating a Roku channel, but quickly gets complicated from that point on as operators try to tackle multiple versions of operating systems and browsers across current-generation and older in-use devices. Our paper here provides an in-depth discussion of the total cost of ownership of multi-DRM players. Each port of a player can cost as much as $250,000 to build, and 10%-25% of that to maintain over time as OS versions are updated and any hacks are discovered.

HTML5, with the associated use of standardized DASH for adaptive bitrate streaming and encrypted media extensions (EME), was designed to alleviate this massive fragmentation problem by streamlining the delivery of DRM-secured content to web browsers on any device. While this simplifies the problem of the surface, it creates several new complications at the deeper levels of content workflows. We explored many of these issues, and recommended strategies to solve these challenges, in our presentation on DRM in the age of HTML 5 available here As content resolution grows towards 4K and early window release of content over OTT becomes more common, the bar on security will continue to grow. As examples, studios are increasingly mandating the use of trusted hardware paths in the device for secure content playback, and use of watermarking for persistent protection is growing.

Please click on the infographic below for a comprehensive view.


As the scale and complexity of this delivery grows, we find that licensing a commercial multi-DRM solution to secure a video service is increasingly becoming the more prudent option than in-house building, for all but the largest and most technically experienced of. Our research found many misperceptions amongst VSOs related to total cost of ownership (TCO), for building and maintaining secure playback solutions across an entire portfolio of new and existing devices. As online video platform (OVP) vendors expand to serve multi-platform video delivery needs for service operators, they themselves are also having to navigate the build/buy dilemma of multi-DRM. As such, they suffer from similar misperceptions themselves. The figure below provides some of the salient findings from our research on the perceptions and realities of TCO for secure playback, both at the server and on the client side.

While the client-side of the complexity is generally better characterized and more widely discussed, the server-side of the problem is no less tangled. Customers expect their video services to perform seamlessly and transparently across each of their devices. This unified, consistent experience is easier said than done. Much of the heavy lifting in developing and running ubiquitous, and ubiquitously uniform, video services is done on the server side. Our new white paper, sponsored by Verimatrix, talks about the various components involved in a multi-DRM server infrastructure. It also discusses long-term strategies to ensure a service remains scalable, agile and profitable in the long run. We explored this issue in further depth and detail during a webinar. We look forward to sharing our expertise and experience in DRM deployment with you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to arambhia@frost.com with your own observations or any questions you are facing as you grow your OTT services.