Flexible DRM Opens Many Ways To Reach Short, Long-Term Goals

Steve Tranter, vice president for broadband, NDS

Steve Tranter, vice president for broadband, NDS

A highly flexible approach to delivering robust IP content protection for cloud- and media gateway-based multiscreen service solutions is proving to be the key to allowing service providers to give consumers what they want without incurring risks of stranding capital or moving too slowly.

While it’s very difficult to lock in on what has been a moving target when it comes to building a next-gen video service architecture, SPs are finding they can act now to take advantage of what works best in a given situation with the option to shift course over time, as long as they have assurance they can bring the level of content protection required for delivery of premium content to any screen anywhere into whatever architecture emerges. SPs want a “quick win which satisfies the customer base, keeps them happy, gives them extra functionality, while, in parallel, they’re working on a longer-term strategy which has more longevity,” says Steve Tranter, vice president for broadband at NDS.

Cox Communications, for example, is taking this two-track approach by leveraging the new NDS VideoGuard Connect DRM system to secure a new IP streaming service dubbed “TV Connect” to deliver content to IP devices direct from the headend via the internet, while still deciding on a gateway strategy. As previously reported (October, p. 23), VideoGuard Connect applies a variety of advanced capabilities designed to overcome fears of delivering premium content over IP, including means by which DRMs native to specific devices are supported with “moving target” protection, where elements cryptographically bound to the client software create a trusted device environment for persistent variations in security execution from one session to the next.

Cox TV Connect initially is streaming 35 live channels over the Internet to iPads. ”We’re using CDNs to deliver that content to multiple devices,” he explains. “It’s protected all the way through to the iPad, and that DRM client is actually part of the application that you’re viewing the content on. So we’re protecting it right through to the point of consumption, which is obviously important to the content providers to maintain their business rules.”

The security platform can be readily augmented to serve Android and other types of devices and to support progressive downloads that will allow users to take content with them when they leave home. The cloud-based system allows users to switch from live streaming to progressive download with assurance they will be able to pick up viewing on the stored content wherever they left off in the live streaming session, Tranter notes.

Complementing the near-term streaming solution, which operates independent of set-tops, Cox, like many other MSOs, is developing a media gateway strategy that interfaces between the reliable QAM delivery network and a managed IP network to all IP devices in the home. As explained by James Field, director of technology at NDS, the home gateway solutions, such as NDS’s Unified gateway architecture, provide a unified approach to distributing video, data and voice services around the home, utilizing the utilizes the advanced DRM protection in conjunction with transcoding and formatting of content for adaptive rate streaming and downloading to IP-connected devices. It draws on a cloud-hosted universal navigation system that renders the UI via HTML5 to suit the display parameters of each type of device.

“The home gateway terminates content delivered with traditional CA (conditional access) protection and, for IP distribution, applying VideoGuard Connect to secure content beyond the gateway,” Field says. The DRM and AR formatting support distribution to Apple iOS, Microsoft PlayReady and Adobe Flash Access devices, he adds.

While “everyone is looking at the gateway” as a key ingredient to service migration, they’re also intent on finding solutions for immediate service enhancements that will work in the legacy CPE environments, Tranter notes. “Everybody is trying to support iPads, Macs, Android devices and PCs,” he says.

Aiding NDS in fulfilling these requirements is Morega Systems, a five-year-old company that until recently was working under the radar to develop solutions precisely tailored to the requirements of multiscreen service. Last year NDS forged a partnership with Morega, which has led to market wins with DirecTV, BSkyB and other providers.

For example, DirecTV, along with moving to an IP streaming service over broadband using VideoGuard Connect, is offering customers a means of place shifting content stored on any type of DVR to their PCs and iPhones. Dubbed “Nomad” the progressive download solution jointly supplied by NDS and Morega employs an independent device, available at retail for $149, to discover all the household’s DVRs and perform all the conversion processes required for delivering that content securely over the Wi-Fi home network.

“If the customer has several DVRs, we discover them all and present all the content on a unified navigation system,” says Philip Poulidis, president and CEO of Morega Systems. “The system is designed to support streaming as well, but that hasn’t been launched on Nomad as yet.”

Rules such as a 30-day content expiration requirement and a five-unit limitation on household device counts are easily implemented on the system, he adds. Support for Mac, iPad, and Android devices will be coming soon, according to DirecTV’s promotional literature.

As such capabilities open a path to immediate responses to market demand operators also need to be assured their long-term migration paths are heading in the right direction, Tranter notes. “It’s not just about choosing an infrastructure,” he says. “It’s about how the application sits on top of it and the final experience to the viewer. We can show today what that will look like so people will feel more comfortable about making decisions.”