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Security top trend at IBC, but watermarking makes a solo appearance

Plenty of piracy news and security deals came of out IBC, presenting some positive steps forward for the industry and good news for the technology vendors, but the growing reliance on security can also spell trouble for service providers and their respective CDN suppliers – as networks are burdened with handling more and more components in video content such as forensic watermarking.

CDN technology firm Edgeware addressed these issues last week, announcing an integration deal with ContentArmor’s watermarking technology and talked up the case for operators to build out their own CDN architecture.

Edgeware’s CMO Richard Brandon broke down watermarking into two methods in our IBC meeting – manifest-based and bitstream-based watermarking. The issue here is that there has to be two versions of every file sent with different sequences to each individual viewer, meaning 50% less efficiency. Something that might seem quite bandwidth-light on the surface, all of a sudden becomes a pretty heavy load.

To this end, ContentArmor’s bitstream-based technology works by identifying content blocks as metadata, as Edgeware streams it and puts its software to work in identifying which blocks to subtly change – embedding streams at the network edge, while claiming that the unique watermarks remain unaffected by recompression and cropping techniques along the way.

Watermarking is vital for reliably identifying the source of individual streams which are found on the internet. They are found using fingerprinting, which captures snippets of the video for first line confirmation that it is copyrighted content. Any copyrighted content found on the web, is then reviewed for a watermark to identify its source. The watermarking tells us where it came from and watermarks are written into the content at the encoding level, the CDN, and the device it plays on and can be read from any copy found in the wild, and its route to market clearly identified. ContentArmor is one of only three major players we can point out in watermarking technologies, along with Verimatrix and Nagra by its NexGuard acquisition.

ContentArmor’s VP sales and marketing, Eric Benetiere, said, “Our integration with Edgeware’s TV CDN architecture demonstrates the key advantages of bitstream watermarking in Edge servers. It allows content owners to put in place an anti-piracy measure that’s more efficient than other options, as it doesn’t require any additional versions of the show to be distributed through the CDN. It’s harder to erase and means content owners can quickly identify specific sources of illegally shared programs.”

The case for building an in-house CDN is an interesting one, and Edgeware has naturally been pushing this as a big marketing campaign, recently putting out a study claiming that building an in-house CDN can improve QoS and reduce costs, compared to a traditional pay as you go CDN. The study notes that a private CDN is becoming more appealing for smaller content distributors, not just for tier 1 operators.

Brandon said the general rule of thumb for a private CDN to become cost-competitive is a tipping point of 100,000 subscribers in a localized area, which is ideal for a densely populated country like the Netherlands where operator KPN, an Edgeware customer, has some 160 points of presence and is therefore never more than 20km away from a server. On the flip side, if a service provider has subscribers in all four corners of the globe, it will be much better off going to Akamai. Another example is Hong Kong-based broadcaster TVB, which signed up Edgeware last year.

Any watermarking deployments in the pipeline could take up to a year to roll out due to the commercial complexities around content rights, said Brandon, so we’ll be sure to follow this up at IBC 2018.

In other security news at IBC, Irdeto inked a three-year extension deal for its conditional access system at MENA-based media group beIN – with sports content constantly in the piracy spotlight, perhaps second only to Game of Thrones. Also in the sports space, Kudelski’s Nagra was selected by German soccer league the DFL (Deutsche Fußball Liga) on the opening day of IBC, to battle illegal distribution of Bundesliga content. Nagra’s anti-piracy services will handle monitoring, tracking and eventual stamping out of prohibited streams.

In a region ravaged by piracy, pay TV operators CableVideo and Colsecor in Argentina put their faith in Conax, another Kudelski subsidiary, this week. CableVideo is migrating its existing security platforms over to a new Conax system, one including OTT, while Colsecor has deployed the Conax Contego security management system on its pay TV service. Over in Asia Pacific, newly launched live OTT sports service Sportfix has tapped GeoGuard to supply an anti-fraud toolkit which it says is specialized in combating geo-piracy, to tackle the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) as a popular method of accessing unlawful content.

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