|Topic:||Securing the brave new TV world|
Jeremy Thorp is the CEO of Latens Systems; he has served in a number of high-level positions in the broadcast industry on both sides of the technology divide – as both an operator and as a technology vendor. Prior to founding Latens in 2002, Jeremy Thorp was Chief Technology Officer at Tandberg Television. Previously, Mr Thorp served as Group Managing Director, responsible for design and roll out of interactive cable systems, Internet content and other services and as NTL’s Director of Strategy. Mr Thorp began his career at Bain & Co, a leading management-consulting firm. Mr Thorp earned his Degree in Engineering from London University.
The growth of IP based TV content distribution depends upon the provider’s ability to control access to content and receive payment for it. Conditional Access, CA, and Digital Rights Management, DRM, solutions work together to protect access. Together, they make sure that only authorized users can access and transfer (or not) the content between authorised devices, and that the service and content providers can bill for providing such access. Many current solutions are hardware-based; newer, more flexible solutions use software.
There is a ‘Brave New TV World’ being invented right now and, as is usual during times of change, there are many issues to debate and questions to answer. Future business models, network suitability for multicasting and potential profitability are all fertile areas for crystal ball gazing. However, of one thing we can be certain: in whatever way TV is distributed, it is crucial that revenues and content are adequately protected. Without content protection, the rights owners, be they Hollywood studios or pay TV channels, do not have a sustainable business model. Once their content leaks out, unprotected, over the Internet its value for future exploitation is hugely diminished. Presently, smartcards protect most pay TV over cable and satellite TV. Although this protection is reasonably effective, it introduces extra costs and reduces flexibility. Given the problems in deploying hardware-based Conditional Access, CA, and the power of modern cryptographic techniques combined with digital networks software-based security solutions, we are likely to see a migration to software solutions. On their own, the flexibility and cost advantages of software security are highly compelling, but when combined with the understanding that software security can provide greater security levels than hardware security, you can see why the days of hardware-based security are numbered. Indeed, it is now very unusual to see new operators launching services with hardware-based security. The ‘Brave New TV World’ enjoys a multiplicity of new delivery mechanisms, with a new business model appearing almost every day. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to divide these new television services into IPTV and Internet-TV. IPTV – operators of IPTV services provide TV and additional communication services over a dedicated private IP network. Initially, these services are comparable to a cable service, but over time the services will increasingly seek to defeat the competition using the power and flexibility of IP networking to offer a richer and more powerful TV experience. Internet TV – refers to the use of broadband connectivity over the public Internet to offer video entertainment. These services already include myriad business models, from straightforward streamed-video services to the launch of hybrid Internet TV services, which deliver only Video on Demand, VoD, or other enhanced services, over the Internet. These exciting new Internet TV services include video distribution enabled by peer-to-peer distribution, and services that use the Internet to give travellers access to the same content they would have when at home. Securing new TV services First, looking at IPTV, it is becoming more and more apparent that the software-based approach to content and revenue security is becoming the standard security approach. The use of secure software modules makes it economically unattractive for a pirate to attempt to produce and profit from a hack. This sort of protection resulted from a thorough re-evaluation of how to secure TV revenues and content. Using secure software modules combined with the power of the network, you can change – within minutes – the security on a particular network, to respond to any pirate attack the system detects. This speedy response means that there is little possibility for the pirate to gain financially from an attack. Consequently, such protected networks are not only more secure, but are also unlikely to be attacked. As IPTV systems gain subscribers and increase in profitability they will increasingly seek to gain early access to recent content. At this point, IPTV systems will increasingly become prime targets for commercial pirate organisations, and protection will become much more important for success than other security tools such as watermarking. Chasing content through watermarks that identify the source of the material will be operationally too difficult. Obtaining the information required to identify individual users is often prohibited by privacy legislation and then is only useful after a breach, hardly a sensible main line of defence. The operator, when faced with a pirate’s attack, needs to be able to secure his operating revenues – a properly designed and implemented software CA system will allow the operator to do exactly this. For those business models that are perhaps better described as Internet TV, software enabled Digital Rights Management, DRM, is presently the favoured method of protecting content. However, as Internet TV models become more mature, it will be crucial for the security schemes deployed to offer the revenue protection strength of CA. In general, I believe we will see a future in which CA will increasingly offer DRM type functionality and vice versa. An example of why it is important that CA and DRM co-exist and work together is addressability. Users will want to move content around different devices, between, say, their set top-box, one or more mobile devices and their PC. In advertising supported TV business models, the addressability provided by CA, working with DRM, enables the operator to report accurately how consumers interact with a brand, wherever and whenever that interaction takes place. For paid content models, CA/DRM enables broadcasters, content owners and operators to have a choice as to whether they enable viewers to move content to other devices apart from the set-top box. It is likely that TV service providers will be able to gain incremental subscription revenues from content portability as well as additional advertising/marketing generated revenues. All of this is enabled by solutions that use secure software agents to track and provide marketing information whilst protecting content and revenues. CA and DRM will also enable new revenue streams by enabling consumers to enjoy paid for content when, where and how they want with DRM policies that control how content can move from device to device. Standards will also become critically important. In the ‘Brave New TV World’ where content is purchased, stored and consumed on different devices, it’s hard to see how such consumption patterns would be possible without a standards-based approach, which is more likely to deliver the interoperability necessary in a multiple-device future than individual proprietary DRM schemes. Without standards, there is also the danger that a single proprietary technology could become too powerful, leading to the content industry becoming highly exposed to a break of security in that system, or not being best served by that content security vendor’s future solutions. There are a number of initiatives to standardise DRM interactions, but these are proving difficult to conclude because of technical, patent and commercial rivalries. In the future, however, it will be increasingly important to have CA and DRM schemes that work together. The CA system touches many parts of the operator system – so making it easy to integrate is important, and following the existing Digital Video Broadcasting, DVB, standards helps enormously with this. Greater flexibility than traditional CAS systems offer, regarding the type of business rules an operator can put in place to market its video services, is important. Customers with smart-card-based solutions are often restricted in what they can do in terms of packaging their product – next generation security architectures are removing those restrictions. Another key issue in security for TV services is scalability. This is particularly true in today’s IPTV market, where once an operator passes the 20,000 subscriber mark, many of the technologies creak at the seams and interoperability is stretched. In comparison, tests run with a large European cable operator’s system data, which was doubled in size and run as a benchmark, proved that software systems, in principle, had no trouble scaling to over four million customers. Scalability really is important, particularly since many current CA/DRM solutions do not, physically and/or economically, scale-up well. In today’s TV environment there are concerns over fragmented audiences, competing business models, disconnects between the costs and revenues of network builders and video distributors, and increasing pressure to maximise return-on-investment. As a result, it is vitally important that operators choose security systems that maximise the flexibility of their content packaging and their business models while providing the highest possible levels of security. The best way to do this is through software security. To protect future TV services, security systems must provide standards-based scalable solutions that ensure that TV operators have the ultimate in content packaging freedom and complete control over how they market their services, so that they will be able to develop and adapt to the future requirements of new services and new customer demands.