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Q&A: Peter Cossack, Irdeto

Peter Cossack, vice-president, cybersecurity services, Irdeto, talks about emerging threats to revenue security and the role of watermarking in protecting high-value content.

What are the key emerging threats to revenue security for video service providers?

Piracy continues to be the biggest threat to existing business models in the pay TV industry, with a report from Digital TV Research last year estimating that lost revenue due to piracy will reach US$52 billion by 2022. Emerging threats over recent years have included OTT credentials theft, and the threat from peer-to-peer (P2P) piracy is also not going away. However, recent technology advances have seen the rapid growth of content redistribution piracy, which is now a global problem for content owners and rights holders.

With the latest technology, it is much easier for pirates to steal content and, with UHD and HDR, the quality of that content is much higher. Social media streaming capabilities and the pirate plugins that are enabling illegal viewing through Kodi, for instance, have lowered the threshold for piracy. As a result, the need for robust protection and tracking of high value content is even more important and this is the main driver for watermarking.

How can watermarking help video service providers secure their content?

Watermarking is a proven, crucial tool in the fight against content redistribution piracy. The invisible, unique mark provides the forensic capability to track and trace, helping you identify the source of leaked content. It also complements other content protection technology such as DRM and Conditional Access. In addition, the forensic information that can be provided by watermarking is the key to unlocking business value. This intelligence enables you to protect your content and current revenue through enforcing contractual compliance.

Watermarking technology is one of many powerful tools that puts the control in the hands of the operator. Using watermarking in conjunction with monitoring will allow the operator to see tangible benefit. Embedding the watermark into your digital content is only part of the overall process however. To ensure revenue and copyright protection, watermarking must be combined with proactive online detection and enforcement services.

Why is watermarking so crucial to protecting 4K UHD content in particular?

There are a variety of use cases for watermarking, from broadcast, to video-on-demand to live OTT streaming, but the watershed moment for watermarking has undoubtedly come with the rapid growth of 4K UHD content. This higher quality content requires increased investment from content owners and rights holders, but its greater availability is also driving the increase in the illegal supply of premium content.

MovieLabs’ Enhanced Content Protection (ECP) specification has also set a new bar for what operators must do to get this kind of premium content. It ranges from ensuring renewability in CA and DRM, to locking down consumer devices, to end-to-end breach response. Watermarking is a key part of this and for on-demand content such as movies and TV shows, server-based watermarking offers the robustness required for this content which does not have a limited vulnerability window. However, for live events and sports, a client-based watermarking approach should be the focus.

How useful is watermarking in protecting live content and what are the challenges in applying watermarking in this environment?

When it comes to live content such as sports, speed is the name of the game. It’s critical that the pirate streams are shut down as quickly as possible as the value of the content is at its highest whilst it is being broadcast live.

The challenge is to process thousands of streams very quickly, scale up detection, find the pirate streams, and identify the watermark in as short a time as possible. A combination of an automated platform with human verification is the most ideal approach to this. This means that the service swiftly identifies infringing content. The discovered URL’s are run through the detector then analysed and validated if not watermarked, with evidence captured for inclusion in the chosen enforcement approach. Having the ability to submit URLs instead of having to create files for detection allows us to do detection in minutes to speed up enforcement. Relationships with ISPs and a strong network of partners also play an important role in the process to ensure the speed of takedown of live streams.

How widespread do you believe the use of watermarking will become over the coming year and what are the main factors driving uptake?

The threat to revenues and high-quality content from piracy is not going away and this will see content owners and rights holders push themselves even harder to battle piracy. The next year will see content owners, and sports rights owners in particular, increasingly mandating watermarking and other anti-piracy requirements in their licensing contracts. This will drive uptake across the industry to ensure content investments are as well protected as possible. We are also seeing that the data is giving the companies that have implemented watermarking unique insights that are very useful when making business decisions.

However, pirates are always adapting their approach and it is only through a 360-degree approach to security that operators can best protect themselves. This means a combination of state-of-the-art anti-piracy technology, proactive services delivered by experienced investigators and analysts, and comprehensive cybercrime business intelligence services.

Irdeto will be exhibiting at IBC on stand 1.D51.

This Q&A is sponsored content.