Technicolor again in Android TV action, integrating VO DRM

Last week, we highlighted Technicolor’s Android TV push as an obvious avenue for its set top business following the failure to find a buyer, and this week the company has teamed up with French fellow Viaccess-Orca in a DRM integration deal. Not only does the deal reiterate how, despite its dominance, Google is not insisting everyone use Widevine in operator tier (although it does on retail Android TV set tops), but is another sign of the rapid pace our industry moves – with the ink barely dry on our last issue by the time a sequel arrived.

There are plenty of complexities which come with securing Android TV due to the abundance and variety of potential attackers given its far reaching and open surface area, so all the major digital security vendors have strengthened their focus on this field appropriately. So, now that all the major DRMs support Android TV, not just Widevine, it means devices can be used anywhere, ubiquitously – minimizing the complexity for set top makers and operators alike.

The deal involves Viaccess-Orca’s DRM and VO Player products being integrated into Technicolor’s Sapphire set top, powered by a Broadcom 7271 chipset, and the vendor says thanks to a security renewal feature of its DRM system, compromised devices need not be a concern to operators.

Strangely, it seems the Sapphire set top is an Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) device rather than operator tier, due its full compliance with the TV Input Framework (TIF), a component of AOSP providing a standard API for manufacturers to create modules for controlling Android TV. This enables live TV search and recommendations via metadata published by the TV input.

Edit: VO has since told Faultline Online Reporter the integration is made for Android TV operator tier but it is also possible and compliant for AOSP.

“The framework does not seek to implement TV standards or regional requirements but does make it easier for device manufacturers to meet regional digital TV broadcast standards without re-implementation,” states the TIF AOSP documentation.

Operators are generally torn between Android TV operator tier and AOSP. The latter still benefits from regular updates of the core codebase by Google but updates to associated functions require considerable time and effort by operators, which is why it is only really an affordable option for tier 1s. It allows operators to create a walled garden like IPTV that prohibits installation of additional third-party apps without their permission, but the flip side of that is lack of access to the Google Play Store with its ecosystem of several thousand apps, as well as no ready access to Netflix or other third-party OTT services without certification. Also, Google’s Widevine DRM does not come with the package and requires significant effort to incorporate, which would apply even more to any other DRM.

If indeed the focus of this integration is on AOSP and not operator tier, then we can easily conclude that tier 1 deployments are the target, although we are currently awaiting a response.

Viaccess-Orca also recently secured a new triple play offer from small French ISP Wibox built around Android TV, on a Sagemcom set top, supplying its multi-DRM system for 4K content with unified backend for CAS and DRM, to provide Wibox with common multicast streams.

Nagra, Verimatrix and Irdeto are all racing to secure Android TV deployments. In summer last year, Irdeto launched a new security system dedicated to operator tier called Irdeto Armor. It combines conditional access and watermarking to protect premium content like 4K UHD and security services to help operators manage a variety of threats. It says the highly scalable OTT security system manages multiple DRMs and business policies.

In a fitting turn of events, a little over a year ago, we ran the headline ‘Nagra reluctantly wins first Android TV operator deal’, which today could not be further from the truth. Back then, there was concern among the vendor community as well as from operators about Google’s mounting OS dominance spreading to the TV, with its dominance ultimately proving detrimental to core services. But little was understood about Android TV operator tier back then and its ability to offer a much more open, white label ecosystem than many expected from the search titan, and various security vendors were late in adopting the major DRMs and conditional security systems.

The same U-turn is true on the hardware front, with Arris a notable case, making the switch in 2016 after initially keeping a cautious distance from Android TV – assuming its massive footprint was untouchable. Operator demand soon changed that, and readers will know from previous coverage the significance of Android TV operator tier breaking into the US in 2019.