In bringing these enhancements to market Verimatrix officials point to specific business strategies taking shape across the globe which, in the aggregate, portray how quickly the video entertainment landscape will be changing in the months ahead. “The pace and scale of new service initiatives is unprecedented,” says Steve Oetegenn, chief sales and marketing officer at Verimatrix.
One such development has to do with service providers’ use of over-the-top delivery of branded premium content to reach beyond their fixed service territory boundaries, in some cases to deliver programming to ex-patriots abroad, in others to compete with incumbent providers on nearby turf. This represents another side to the use of OTT hybrid service delivery as the engine behind in-territory-focused multi-screen or TV Everywhere services.
“We are experiencing the maturing of the OTT video market where network operators are now able to blend OTT into their traditional services – from an operational, technology and revenue model perspective,” says Verimatrix CTO Petr Peterka. “This requires enhanced OTT security functionality and options in order to deliver premium content to OTT devices.”
Verimatrix has enhanced its Video Content Authority System (VCAS), a comprehensive digital rights management-based suite of solutions for enabling and securing IP-based premium services, to serve several new requirements identified by customers, Peterka says. Dubbed VCAS for Internet TV, the solution comes at a time when Apple’s adaptive streaming protocol HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) is dominating the market as a function of the success of iPads and iPhones and just in advance of completion of the new MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) standard, which, as previously reported (June, p. 8), will provide the mechanisms for uniform distribution of content protection solutions over devices running HLS and another widely used adaptive streaming protocol, Microsoft’s Smooth.
The VCAS for Internet TV provides a complete digital TV security solution for OTT services over multiple network types implementing HLS with support for fine-grain entitlement, authentication, dynamic copy control, local file cache and playback, and other essential functions for a variety of device categories, including PC/Macs, mobile handsets, tablets, set-top boxes and connected TVs. Fundamentally, the goal is “to enable a transparent experience for [our customers’] subscribers, while still maintaining the appropriate level of security across devices,” Peterka says.
The extra-national and extra-territorial application of branded OTT services is a very broad-based phenomenon linked closely to efforts to mount multi-screen services, but most service providers are keeping their strategies under wraps, says Steve Christian, vice president of marketing at Verimatrix. “It’s certainly happening in Europe,” Christian says. “I wish we could talk about more of the large-scale deployments we’re engaged in. The value proposition of coordinating content protection strategies on legacy and Internet TV networks is really resonating.”
One customer Verimatrix can name that offers a good picture of what’s afoot is the United Emirate-based telecommunications giant Etisalat, which reaches over 135 million customers in 18 countries across Asia, the Middle East and Africa and has been expanding an IPTV footprint now reaching thousands of customers over an all-fiber infrastructure. As its content security provider for IPTV, Verimatrix has been tapped by the firm to support extension of its subscription services via OTT into areas not served by the fiber network.
“Etisalat has recognized they can have a much greater competitive impact with a compelling range of OTT services delivered in their home territories while also offering those services internationally to people living abroad,” Christian says. “We see the way they’re aggressively attacking the market with a combination of IPTV and OTT technology as an example from a business and operational standpoint of how operators will approach opportunities for expansion out of territory in this next stage of development.”
The biggest impediments to such efforts right now, he adds, are territorial content licensing restrictions. “With the case for ironclad security now established, it really comes down to negotiating rights to offer your services beyond your current borders,” Christian notes. “The next round of contracts for content will be written with much more of a multinational perspective than they have today.”
The strategic growth opportunities exemplified by Etisalat include steps to affiliate with TV manufacturers in order to incorporate the service provider’s branded set of programming options into the larger navigational framework of connected smart TVs. In the case of Etisalat this involves leveraging Verimatrix’s new partnership with LG Electronics to put its services on that manufacturer’s TVs wherever they are sold worldwide.
“We’re working closely with them to make sure their app is running on the Verimatrix IPTV and Web TV security clients integrated into LG’s smart TVs,” Christian says. “The opportunity to reach this market base of smart TVs is available to our 450 operator customers worldwide.”
Verimatrix has teamed with Related Content Database, Inc. (RCDb), a next generation television software and data services company, to enable the application interoperability and security that allows operators to deliver their branded services to smart TVs of manufacturers affiliated with RCDb. In this case the conduit is via the LG App Store to LG LCD and plasma TVs, Blu-ray players and the Smart TV Upgrader that consumers can use with legacy LG sets. “Our partnership with RCDb greatly expands the range of connected devices that can be supported in secure multi-screen deployments,” comments Steve Oetegenn.
On another front, Oetegenn points to a third area of deep engagement on the part of Verimatrix where a major service expansion is underway. As previously reported (June, p. 18), the company’s server-side electronic watermarking technology, StreamMark, has been designed to associate high-value content with each viewer by embedding watermarks on each encoded and encrypted stream as it leaves the service provider’s server.
This greatly simplifies the difficult challenges associated with providing the watermarking security layer that’s essential to launching the type of early-window, high-price home theater service over terrestrial networks that is already in early stages of commercial availability with DirecTV’s Home Premiere service. Two major North American MSOs working with Verimatrix are close to completing installation of the watermarking capabilities across their service areas, Oetegenn says.
“Right now this service is a bit of an experiment,” he observes. “The jury is still out on whether people will be willing to pay $30 or so for viewing early releases of VOD content. But these MSOs are going to find out. You’ll see a lot more happening in this area as the holiday season approaches.”