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14 November 2019

Nagra wants to dominate Android TV, Irdeto won’t stand still

Swiss security specialist Nagra made two Android TV operator tier announcements in quick concession this week. Both are hardware deals to develop hybrid Android TV set tops for pay TV operators and each embodies a trend of vendors uniting ever closer in the Android TV space. Faultline echoed as much during our IBC coverage and in the preceding months the collaborations have sparked excitement and disruption.

Nagra, through its Android Fast Track program, is manipulating its dominant digital security position in the burgeoning operator tier ecosystem, to potentially devastating effect on rivals. Similarly, Android TV’s open nature has left the technology a prime target for pirates.

There is another initiative though being spearheaded by a much larger beast. Netflix has its Hailstorm Hybrid program to ease the integration process for pay TV operators deploying Android TV, and this week signed up Nagra rival Irdeto, which launched a set top platform with Skyworth and Amlogic pre-certified by Hailstorm.

Firstly, Nagra has landed its Connect and Protect security technologies on hybrid set tops from Kaon Media, based on a Broadcom BCM7268 chipset, to deliver advanced TV features in full compliance with the Google MediaCAS framework.

The second sounds a little more convoluted. There is also the hybrid TV hardware element supplied by SDMC, but running an Amlogic S905X3 series SoC instead of Broadcom, and pre-integrated with the Nagra Connect security client but without Nagra Protect. The deal adds Nagra security clients to Amlogic’s DVB-C hybrid set top platform.

From the Android Developer archive, MediaCAS software is used to obtain keys for descrambling protected media streams in conjunction with other technologies like MediaCodec and MediaExtractor which are used to decode media data scrambled by conditional access systems.

For clarity, Connect is the latest cardless protection technology used by cable TV majors like Altice USA for encrypting broadcast content. Nagra Connect meanwhile is a converged CAS/DRM client for connected set tops and TVs. Its secure player extends the viewing experience securely to all portable media devices. Telefonica is one example of a tier 1 Connect account, securing the Spanish operator’s Movistar IPTV service in countries where newer set tops have rolled out – providing Telefónica with a single, 4K-ready content protection system capable of securing multiple device types.

There was no mention of Nagra Security Services Platform (SSP) this week however, which we have observed in conjunction with Nagra Connect in operator TV environments. However, Faultline learned earlier this year that the SSP and Connect technologies are fundamentally the same. Nagra SSP is a cloud-based SaaS product for managing other third-party DRM systems to reach generic devices. This was previously called the anyCast SSP which in turn reports to the Nagra Connect client for converged CAS/DRM content security across broadcast, IPTV or OTT delivery to the home.

Both Nagra Connect and Protect are driven by SSP which the vendor claims go above and beyond traditional CAS and DRM to secure premium content over any network to any device. Security vulnerabilities associated with Android TV operator tier include the infamous Kodi for accessing pirated content, as well as malicious apps being side-loaded into the Android TV set top. A major concern for operators is that subscribers will view competing services using their provided hardware and even reload the set top with unauthorized software for repurposing.

The burning question though is whether the two hybrid TV set tops – one Kaon-made and Broadcom-powered; the other SDMC-made and Amlogic-powered; but both Nagra-secured – are fundamentally competing systems? The answer as far as we can tell is yes, but likely in markets where the two hardware makers don’t overlap.

Maurice Van Riek, SVP and Head of Content and Asset Security at Nagra said, “Through the Nagra Android Fast Track program we are now able to deliver more choice to pay TV operators looking to deploy a pre-integrated Android TV-based solution, that not only enables a shorter time to market of pay TV services but also safeguards premium assets from piracy.”