The New Perspective on Watermarking

Steve Christian, SVP, marketing, Verimatrix

Steve Christian, SVP, marketing, Verimatrix

Surging Piracy, Rising Tide of UHD Content
Fuel Adoption of Advanced Security Measures

Verimatrix Ultra HD Protection Platform Equips Distributors to Satisfy New Premium Content Licensing Requirements

By Steve Christian
Vice President, Marketing, Verimatrix

Table of Contents


Market Trends Underlying the Watermarking Mandate
UHD Set Sales and Consensus on Premium UHD
    The UHD Content Surge
    The Growing Impact of Piracy
    Market-Proven Effectiveness of Concerted Action against Piracy

Advances Fueling Industry Commitment to Watermarking
A Watermarking Platform that Covers all the Bases
    The New SoC Foundation for Implementing Advanced Security
    The Emergence of Cloud-Based Support for the Global Anti-Piracy Agenda
    The Importance of Global Cooperation



With online theft of premium video continuing to cause industry concern as the introduction of higher quality video formats accelerates, there is increasing agreement that the time has come to implement forensic watermarking as a primary weapon in the fight against piracy.

It’s long been understood that the emergence of distribution services carrying content formatted to ultra HD (UHD) and high dynamic range (HDR) parameters would trigger a pan-industry move to more rigorous levels of content protection. With a huge base of 4K UHD TV owners now in place, the flow of enhanced-format content is intensifying rapidly.

Watermarking, entailing automated insertion of invisible digital codes that can associate a stolen piece of content with the viewing device and its owner at the point of theft, is the best tool rights holders have to find and act against commercial content pirates who attempt to capture and redistribute live and on-demand video streams.

Consequently, after a long period of uncertainty about how serious the watermarking mandate might turn out to be, pay-TV and OTT distributors should anticipate wide-scale adoption of content licensing policies that put watermarking at the center of new requirements for securing end-to-end distribution of premium video.

The industry’s success at defining new luminance and color parameters for what is now labeled UHD Premium content has given content owners a coherent approach to rewarding growing legions of UHD TV owners with a truly superior viewing experience. As a result, increasing numbers of OTT distributors and MVPDs are adding ever more UHD Premium programming to their lineups, opening the floodgates to availability of high-value content that can be easily purloined from big TV screens for redistribution over the Internet.

The contours of new requirements, including watermarking, for protecting high-value content can be found in the Enhanced Content Protection (ECP) specifications set by Motion Picture Laboratories (MovieLabs), the Hollywood studios’ research and development joint venture. While the MovieLabs specs may be implemented in different permutations by license holders, watermarking is a fundamental component that has been widely embraced by studios and other program suppliers as they prepare to push ever more UHD Premium and other high-value content through big pipes that support TV viewing at unprecedented levels of quality.

Fortunately, a solid foundation for enabling practical use of watermarking has been built by Verimatrix and other content security suppliers working in tandem with SoC (system-on-chip) manufacturers, CE OEMs, distributors and license holders worldwide. Moreover, the Verimatrix Video Content Authority System (VCAS) Ultra™ architecture undergirding the company’s VideoMark® watermarking solution encompasses all the capabilities essential to implementing the other measures embodied in the MovieLabs specs, including rigorous approaches to hardware and software layers of security that are needed to provide ironclad protection in the distribution chain end to end.

Along with maturation of protection technology and adoption of licensing policies that are putting these capabilities into play, another line of progress confirming the time has come for watermarking has to do with industry-wide collaboration on building a viable forensics tracking and enforcement ecosystem with enough clout to put pirates out of business. Mounting evidence of success in the execution of enforcement initiatives has reinforced content owners’ confidence that inclusion of watermarking requirements in their licensing agreements with distributors are going to pay off.

We begin the discussion that follows by exploring the trends driving what promises to be an ongoing surge in UHD Premium content availability and, with it, an escalating threat from piracy to the bottom lines of all concerned. We then examine the prescriptions MovieLabs has set for watermarking and other advanced protection measures with a review of the steps Verimatrix has taken to give content owners and distributors the tools they need to meet those requirements. We’ll conclude with a brief review of what has been done so far and what needs to be done to establish a global enforcement framework that can maximize the effectiveness of watermarking against piracy.

Market Trends Underlying the Watermarking Mandate

The need for watermarking and other advances in content security is rising in direct proportion to developments along two inter-related trend lines: 4K UHD TV set sales and availability of UHD content. Where display sales are concerned, Strategy Analytics projects that one in every eight homes in North America will have at least one 4K UHD display by the end of 2016. 1

UHD Set Sales and Consensus on Premium UHD
While overall global TV sales flagged a bit in 2015 due to saturation of flat-panel TVs in most markets, sales of 4K UHD  sets soared by 160 percent over the previous year, reaching 32 million or 14 percent of all types of sets sold worldwide, according to a report from Futuresource Consulting.2  By 2020 the annual global 4K UHD sales total will approach 140 million, representing 52 percent of the TV market, Futuresource predicts.

These projections square with those of other research firms. For example, IHS Markit, citing plummeting prices, predicts 4K UHD TV household penetration in the U.S. will reach 34 percent in 2019, followed closely by the U.K. at a projected 31 percent penetration.3  IHS foresees 4K UHD set penetration hitting 25 percent in the European Union by that year, followed by China at 24 percent and Japan at 14 percent.

Notwithstanding the fact that 4K UHD TV sets have been on retail shelves since 2012, there was very little UHD content available through the first years of 4K set production, primarily because the benefits that came with merely quadrupling pixel density to 4K parameters didn’t produce an improvement in viewing experience that merited investment in everything that had to be done from production through distribution to deliver UHD content. This perspective changed with the enhancements to the viewing experience introduced through increases in luminance and color ranges of not only 4K but also HD content as prescribed by various iterations of HDR  technology.

However, while HDR generated excitement that a truly new level of TV quality capable of driving new consumer spending on displays and content was at hand, there was no consensus on HDR parameters and, therefore, no way to build a mass market. To rectify the situation several leading CE manufacturers, Hollywood studios and other interests at the outset of 2015 formed the UHD Alliance (UHDA) with a mandate to reduce the confusion generated by competing HDR templates so that consumers could be confident the displays and Blu-ray players they were purchasing would have access to the widest possible range of HDR-enhanced content.

A year later, the alliance announced agreement on HDR parameters which, together with 4K, would determine which TV sets merit the organization’s “Ultra HD Premium” stamp of approval. Baseline requirements include: 3840 x 2160 resolution; 10-bit coding; SMPTE 2084 transfer function; at least 1000-nit peak brightness or 540-nit peak brightness in the case of OLED displays; BT.2020 color gamut representation on signal input, and display reproduction able to render more than 90 percent of the colors in the SMPTE DCI P3 standard used for cinematic productions, which is a significant subset of the BT.2020 color gamut.

As of mid-2016 more than 30 display models had been certified Ultra HD Premium compliant, including the entire line of Samsung SUHD TVs, all of LG’s 2016 vintage OLED displays, larger Panasonic DX-900 models and many more. While Sony has chosen to use its own labeling for HDR-enhanced UHD sets, the firm says its flagship 2016 XD93 and XD94 models comply with the UHDA’s Ultra HD Premium specifications.

In addition, two manufacturers, Panasonic and Samsung, are offering Ultra HD Blue-ray Disc players that meet new Blu-ray Disc Association specifications paralleling those of the UHDA. Many more OEMs are set to introduce UHD players in the coming months.

Operating in tandem with the UHD Alliance, the Ultra HD Forum, a consortium with more than 50 members consisting primarily of MVPDs, their suppliers and OTT vendors, has developed guidelines prescribing an end-to-end workflow for constructing and delivering HDR-enhanced content as a real-time linear service. The first set of guidelines contains separate sections dedicated to each step in the distribution chain, including compression technologies, metadata carriage options, sample bitrate ranges, audio, captions/subtitles and more. Consideration is also given to content manipulation that may occur at each point in the chain, such as ad insertion and graphic overlays.

Significantly, by making its guidelines applicable to HDR enhancements to HD content viewed on HDR-capable 4K screens, the Ultra HD Forum has set the stage for a greater volume of premium content meriting advanced protection via watermarking and other techniques than would be the case if HDR was limited to use with 4K-formatted content. While some HDR-capable 4K UHD displays automatically enhance HD content with luminance and contrast levels that offer dramatic improvements over conventional HD displays, the Ultra HD Forum’s guidelines go farther by prescribing pre-distribution processes that can be applied to enhance HD content to full HDR and WCG (wide color gamut) parameters for rendering on any HDR-capable display.

As a result, HD 1080p is factored into the forum guidelines as a UHD format in instances where the HD content is enhanced with HDR. These steps recognize that HDR rather than the level of resolution is the key to enhancing the viewing experience and therefore the value of premium content to viewers and thieves alike.

The UHD Content Surge

The industry’s consensus-building activities have triggered a rapid rise in the volume of UHD Premium-compliant content available to consumers. In the OTT domain, Netflix and Amazon have led the way in adding HDR-enhanced programming to the 4K UHD lineups they’ve been building over the past two years. Netflix, the first SVOD OTT service to offer 4K-formatted content, has committed to producing all its original series in 4K and has been rapidly adding HDR-enhanced content to that mix. Amazon Prime is now offering more than 30 movie titles and five original series in UHD Premium mode.

Elsewhere on the OTT front newcomer UltraFlix, as its name implies, is pinning its business model to delivering industry-leading volumes of UHD content with an initial offering of over 300 hours of 4K movies and other content on demand, some of it with HDR enhancements. Other suppliers like Vudu, M-Go and Sony with its new Ultra streaming app are populating the Internet with ever more UHD Premium-formatted options. And YouTube, which over several years has built a sizeable library of 4K content, has brought long-form HDR-enhanced UHD content into the mix of channels offered on its Red subscription platform.

As the online availability of 4K UHD content continues to ramp up, an even more significant development is the emergence of the first live TV broadcasts of  4K UHD in the U.S. and elsewhere. The debut of such programming in the U.S. occurred with CBS Sports’ coverage of the Masters Tournament in March broadcast by DirecTV. This was preceded by a spate of live 4K UHD broadcasts elsewhere, including productions of NHL and NBA games in Canada and multiple soccer telecasts by BT Sport in Europe.

Since then an even greater volume of 4K broadcasts covering Major League Baseball games, albeit without HDR enhancements as yet, have been produced for distribution in the U.S. and Canada, including all the home games of the Toronto Blue Jays delivered to Rogers Communications’ Sportsnet subscribers and a handful of other MLB “showcase” games delivered by DirecTV. NBC Universal contributed to the flow with one-day delayed broadcasts of several Olympic events in HDR-enhanced 4K with distribution over 4K UHD feeds operated by Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV.

So far, MVPD distribution of 4K UHD content in the U.S. has been limited with only DirecTV going so far as to allocate multiple TV channels to the format. This entails one full-time linear, one pay-per-view and a part-time linear, all of which are accessible by top-line premium subscribers with the help of a new 4K-capable Genie Mini set-top connecting to designated models of Samsung, Sony and LG TVs. With launch of a satellite dedicated to supporting 4K UHD, DirecTV is well positioned to quickly expand the content offerings.

Dish has limited its broadcasts to occasional events like the Olympics and is also offering pay-per-view movies and 4K UHD series from Netflix. But Dish executives say more is in the offing for access via a new 4K-capable Joey set-top and Hopper 3 DVR.

Comcast has begun to expand on its initial Xfinity UHD offering, which uses a streaming app to enable owners of Samsung and LG 4K UHD sets to view a mix of episodic programming primarily from Comcast-owned NBCU over their broadband connections. The MVPD moved to HDR-enhanced content distribution over its X1 pay-TV service with launch of an HDR-enabled HD set-top in advance of the Summer Olympics and plans to introduce a fully 4K UHD-capable set-top before year’s end.

Another major development expanding availability of 4K UHD content is the studios’ release of a growing number of Blu-ray 4K UHD movies now that the new players are coming onto the market. There were about 50 titles available by mid-2016 with industry projections anticipating the total would reach 100 by year’s end.4 As of late June these early releases had generated sales of 228,000 discs, a significant increase over the 57,000 Blu-ray discs that were sold during a comparable period when Blu-ray players launched in 2006.5

The Growing Impact of Piracy

The growing volume of 4K UHD programming and the prospects for large amounts of HDR-enhanced HD content coincide with the industry’s decision to mount a much more concerted effort against rampant worldwide piracy. In part that’s because the higher the premium video quality gets to be on legitimate MVPD and OTT outlets, the higher the quality will be for camcorded video or otherwise captured from 4K UHD displays for digital distribution.

UHD will also contribute to the appeal of pirated content as ever more current movie titles and first-run TV episodes entering the UHD pipeline inspire new payment tiers, including long-discussed premium pricing for early-window distribution of movies to the VOD market.

More basically, the anti-piracy battle is intensifying because content owners have concluded that insofar as UHD is emerging in tandem with a piracy surge, the licensing of content for delivery in the enhanced formats marks an opportune time to make sure that watermarking is widely adopted.

Content owners know the threat has been exacerbated by the fact that online streaming of purloined content has become the dominant mode of piracy over the past few years, rapidly supplanting peer-to-peer downloading as a far more effective way to capture and retain viewers, including people who are fooled into thinking sophisticated pirate sites, supported by advertising and often charging subscription fees, are legitimate.

According to analysis performed by U.K. antipiracy firm MUSO, 73.7 percent of 78.5 billion visits to film and TV piracy sites worldwide utilized streaming sites in 2015.6 Torrent-based sites represented 17.2 percent of user visits, with direct-download sites accounting for the remainder. Muso found the largest share of piracy activity was in the U.S. with over 12 percent of the audience, with France, Germany and the U.K. also ranking in the top ten.

One riveting example of TV show theft that served to heighten industry alarm occurred in the first three months of 2015, when there were over seven million illegal downloads of episodes from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which outstripped the full-year total of four million illegal downloads registered by the show in 2012, according to press reports.7 Another came with the Periscope attacks that resulted in screen capture and illicit distribution of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in May 2015. This mode of theft, enabling anyone with a smartphone to distribute live programming, added to the toll taken by the illicit redistribution   of live sports broadcasts, which now represent 25 to 30 percent of total viewing of major events, according to some estimates.

Such developments suggest the industry faces far greater losses to theft than it’s faced up to now.
Currently annual advertising and subscription fee losses content owners and distributors incur from online piracy worldwide comes to about $2.4 billion with a strong likelihood the total will keep increasing without concerted action, according to research conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).8 This includes movies and live as well as stored TV episodes.

The IAB’s $2.4 billion figure is a conservative estimate that is based on IAB researchers’ assumption that if all the pirate sites were shut down, only a percentage of the site users would go to legitimate sources. The actual revenues generated by these sites in 2015 came to about $7.96 billion, including $6.61 billion in subscription and pay-per-view fees and $652 million from ad placements by Internet ad networks, IAB estimates. The researchers assumed that shifting pirate site users to legitimate sources would translate to those sources recouping 70 percent of those ad revenues and just 30 percent of the pay fees.

Market-Proven Effectiveness of Concerted Action against Piracy

Weaning users off piracy won’t be easy. But the good news is that concerted action against piracy can be very effective.

In research cited by the Motion Picture Association of America, Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John III Hein School of Public Policy and Management found that taking down one site, even a big one, as was the case in the U.K. court-ordered takedown of peer-to-peer site The Pirate Bay in 2012, has minimal impact, but action against multiple sites leads to upticks in uses of legitimate sites.9

Where eliminating The Pirate Bay caused only a small reduction in total piracy and no apparent increase in legal site visits, U.K. court orders against 19 major piracy sites in 2013 caused a meaningful reduction in total piracy in the U.K. and led former illegal site users to increase their use of legal sites by an average of 12 percent. The lightest users of the blocked sites increased their clicks on paid streaming sites by 3.5 percent while the heaviest blocked site users increased their paid streaming clicks by 23.6 percent. Looking at the effects of court-ordered action against an additional 53 piracy sites in 2014, the researchers saw a 22 percent decrease in total piracy among British users of the blocked sites and an overall piracy drop of 16 percent.

With such findings buttressing content owners’ conviction that anti-piracy initiatives can be worth the effort, it’s no wonder that the industry is putting much more emphasis on use of forensic watermarking as the starting point for identifying stolen content and the perpetrators of such theft.

In fact, as MovieLabs made clear in its (ECP specifications, watermarking and other recommended procedures might be applied to any content deemed high enough in quality and value to merit application of those measures, depending on policies set by individual license holders. In other words, as UHD becomes the spark to implementation of watermarking requirements by license holders, distributors of high-value content should anticipate that the requirements will be more widely applied to premium HD and UHD content alike.

Advances Fueling Industry Commitment to Watermarking

Many enhanced protection measures specified by MovieLabs are already well-established practices in the protection of pay-TV services. These include encryption based on AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 128 or better ciphers, random number generation for encryption keys, HDCP 2.2 or better link protection and “secure media pipeline,” which is defined as “end-to-end protection that encompasses, as a minimum, decryption through to protected output,” although with this last and some other well-established measures there are some new wrinkles which MVPDs may need to accommodate depending on how far rights holders’ go in adopting them.

But many other MovieLabs-mandated measures stand out as important new stipulations MVPDs need to be mindful of as they look for vendor solutions that will meet requirements in the years ahead. First among these is watermarking.

Watermarking is already moving into the content licensing mainstream, especially where new licenses are being negotiated, as evidenced by a recent surge in deployments of Verimatrix VideoMark and other state-of-the-art platforms worldwide. Another sign that watermarking has reached commercial viability is the recent acquisition of the NexGuard watermarking platform by Kudelski Group, which heretofore was providing watermarking solutions through Nagra, Kudelski’s content protection solutions provider, based on licensing agreements with suppliers like NexGuard.

While the MovieLabs’ ECP specs are positioned as recommendations, they have become the focal point of watermarking requirements being formulated by the studios and other providers for licensing high-value content for pay-TV and OTT distribution as well as distribution on disc. As a result, the industry is more coordinated than ever in efforts to build a practical foundation for implementing watermarking technology and its use in anti-piracy activity than ever before.

The technical stipulations set forth by MovieLabs are straight forward, requiring that the enabling technology “securely forensically mark video at the server and/or client to recover information necessary to address breaches” with assurance the technology is “robust against corruption of the forensic information.”

A Watermarking Platform that Covers all the Bases

Those simply stated provisions reflect the great progress made over the past decade by Verimatrix and others in development of commercially viable watermarking technology. Under rigorous testing and field conditions such solutions have demonstrated they can deliver imperceptible marks that cannot be detected or removed by pirates.  Likewise, the industry has confirmed that invisible digital code embedded by VideoMark and certain other solutions can survive content degradation in both the legitimate and piracy phases of distribution, including processes such as transcoding, recompression and camcording, while avoiding adding noise or artifacts that could contribute to content degradation.

Moreover, while MovieLabs’ specs aren’t focused on live broadcast content, Verimatrix has addressed this category by augmenting VideoMark with mechanisms tailored for use with linear content. In order to help broadcasters identify marks and block leaks of live content in real time, the VideoMark Live profile injects a flashing mark at the pixel level that is unobtrusive but can be quickly read and analyzed. By utilizing Verimatrix proprietary algorithms embedded in SoC hardware, the VideoMark Live approach to watermarking protection avoids the use of hacking-vulnerable on-screen display methods.

The New SoC Foundation for Implementing Advanced Security

The emergence of dedicated support for watermarking solutions from Verimatrix and other suppliers in SoCs points up another major factor attesting to the emergence of watermarking as a mainstream component of content protection architecture.  SoC support for watermarking insertions at the device level, promoted by MovieLabs as the best way to ensure that any incoming content can be marked regardless of delivery method, is creating a foundation for rapid scaling of watermarking worldwide.

The growing ecosystem of SoC suppliers that have integrated VideoMark into advanced chipsets supporting 4K UHD content include Broadcom, Marvel, Mstar, Hi-Silicon, and ALi . Verimatrix is also collaborating with major TV OEMs and their SoC vendors to provide this same level of VideoMark integration.

Critically, given that the MovieLabs specs encompass much else besides watermarking, Verimatrix has worked with these SoC makers to ensure that all VCAS Ultra capabilities pertinent to chip-level functions are incorporated into SoCs along with VideoMark-related processes. To provide assurance that chipsets and devices support implementations of VCAS ViewRight® client software under the guidelines set by MovieLabs Verimatrix has implemented an Ultra Security certification program in partnership with Riscure, a leading provider of security evaluations in the content protection industry.

Relying on Verimatrix Ultra Security certification, device OEMs and service providers can be sure chipsets they choose for new products will provide the full scope of protection license holders will require for distribution of their content in UHD formats. In addition to dedicated support for VideoMark, these measures include:

  • Embedded hardware-based security comprising the factory-installed SoC subsystems that contain the keys and secret material known only to the device itself and to the security authority that provided it. These keys must be inaccessible to any other processes running in the SoC;
  • Trusted software, which ensures the root of trust is not undone by attempts to obtain secret information during code execution. Hardening techniques such as code obfuscation and the functions available through Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) resources make software very difficult to reverse engineer and nearly impossible to hack.

The Emergence of Cloud-Based Support for the Global Anti-Piracy Agenda

Another major factor in the support Verimatrix is providing for the emerging ECP ecosystem is the set of cloud-based capabilities available through the company’s Verspective™ Intelligence Center. Verspective serves as an engine for system deployment, management, monitoring and analytics that optimizes solution performance and reduces operational expenses, thereby harnessing the power of a globally interconnected revenue security platform to enhance the VCAS and ViewRight value propositions.

Not only does this new layer of network and subscriber intelligence enable service providers to more optimally manage the security system, especially in multi-network, multiscreen deployments; it also applies big data analytics to content monitoring data gleaned from across the globe to help service providers and content owners proactively identify and address emerging vulnerabilities and threats.

Moreover, Verspective Monitoring provides cloud-based support for tracking and reacting to pirated content that has been watermarked with VideoMark. Along with detecting footprints and patterns of illicit activity within the global operator community, the service supports real-time watermark detection to enable action against live streams while events are in progress and to quickly combat and eliminate the threats tied to file-based content before they spread.

The Importance of Global Cooperation

This support for coordination of piracy tracking and watermark detection is contributing to growing global cooperation in the use of watermarking to crack down on piracy. Such activity maps to the “breach monitoring and response” requirements embodied in the MovieLabs ECP regime.

Under these stipulations service providers are required to play a larger role in fighting piracy by actively monitoring for breaches during content “runtime” with the ability to revoke “subsidiary code-signing certificates if these are used as part of the system’s root of trust” and to “revoke individual devices or classes of devices.” But while the VCAS Ultra platform and monitoring and watermark detection support provided through Verspective give operators the tools they need to meet these requirements, the global scale of piracy requires much broader pan-industry cooperation in ECP-mandated monitoring and response processes.

Progress along these lines is another factor fueling content owners’ incentives to make watermarking a routine condition for licensing high-value content. Regional and global anti-piracy activities are now underway through the auspices of organizations such as the U.S.-based International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP), which is pursuing a mandate to prevent illegal distribution of international television content in coordination with embassies, government and trade offices worldwide.

Others involved in such activities include the globally oriented Coalition Against Online Video Piracy representing sports, entertainment and broadcasting concerns; Alianza, which recently mounted an initiative against consumer use of pirated content in Latin America; the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance; STOP Nordic Content Protection, and CASBAA, an Asian trade association that has devoted significant resources to anti-piracy activities.

Another manifestation of the growing worldwide commitment to the anti-piracy fight is the success of studios and other content owners in persuading agencies and Internet entities to take action to ensure advertising for their products and services does not appear on websites dedicated to theft. These entities’ initiatives, which also include activities aimed at fraudulent advertising, are being orchestrated through the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a global organization created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to work collaboratively with companies throughout the digital ad supply chain. The four leading ad agencies, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP’s GroupM, and a growing list of individual advertisers such as GoDddy, Bayer and Google are among the entities committing to the TAG agenda.


Distributors of premium video can no longer assume that wide-scale enforcement of forensic watermarking requirements by license holders is still well off in the future. Service providers have been on notice for some time that watermarking would be intrinsic to obtaining rights to distribute 4K UHD programming once there was a sufficient volume of content in the pipeline to merit use of the technology. Given the surge in 4K and HDR-enhanced UHD Premium content targeted to a growing population of 4K UHD set owners, it’s clear that moment is at hand.

And none too soon. Premium video piracy, abetted by the success of online distribution modes tied to capturing movies and TV programs in the clear from big-screen displays, has moved into a new phase that is already producing losses totaling in the billions of dollars each year. The emergence of UHD content provides an opportunity for content owners to impose watermarking requirements in new licensing agreements, but distributors can assume that watermarking will be more pervasively required across all high-value content as the industry seeks to maximize the effectiveness of its stepped-up war on piracy.

As evidenced by developments spearheaded by Verimatrix and other suppliers, the foundation is now in place to ensure the goals for watermarking and other advanced protection measures mandated by the MovieLabs ECP specifications are met. Expanding on the multiscreen, multi-DRM protection support Verimatrix pioneered with its VCAS platform, the company’s VCAS Ultra architecture incorporates all the advanced functionalities envisioned by MovieLabs, including watermarking, embedded hardware security and support for trusted software.

Moreover, the VideoMark watermarking solution set, along with complying with MovieLabs’ specs, also introduces support for real-time identification and action against theft of live broadcast content. Now, with major SoC manufacturers’ integration of the VCAS Ultra protection mechanisms into their chipsets, the implementation of the Verimatrix Ultra Certification program and the data gathering and analytics capabilities provided by the Verimatrix Verspective cloud service, content owners and distributors have a foundation they can count on to facilitate effective anti-piracy action worldwide.

1  Forbes, Everybody Wants 4K, May 2016,

2 Futuresource Consulting, Global TV Sales Report, April 2016

3 IHS Markit, TV Sets Intelligence Services,, December 2015

4 Trusted Reviews, The Ultimate Guide to 4K Blu-ray Movies, August 2016

7 CNBC, “Game of Thrones Battles Pirated Waters,” April 2015

9 H. John III Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, The Effect of Piracy Website Blocking on Consumer Behavior, November 2015