Having covered the fundamentals of DRM and looking into popular DRM systems such as FairPlay Streaming, Widevine, and PlayReady, let’s now take a look at the concept of multi-DRM. Specifically, let’s understand why multi-DRM is essential and what it can do for your streaming service!
In the last few articles of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to DRM series, we learned about the fundamentals of DRM and about popular DRM technologies such as Apple’s Fairplay Streaming, Microsoft’s PlayReady, and Google’s Widevine.
We also learned about how these DRM products target specific ecosystems and have specific requirements for the streaming protocol used (HLS vs. MPEG-DASH), players, security restrictions, etc.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of the CTO of an upcoming streaming service which needs to use DRM to protect their assets. What questions does this CTO need to answer?
- Are we going to stream in MPEG-DASH, HLS, MSS, or a combination of the three?
- Are we going to package each asset in both mp4 and ts for MPEG-DASH and HLS, respectively? Or, do we use CENC and CMAF and use that for both MPEG-DASH and HLS?
- Which players are we going to use for Web (HTML5), Android phones/TVs, Apple (iOS and tvOS), Roku, SmartTVs (Samsung, LG, etc.), Amazon Fire TV? What support do they have for DRM?
- What does my transcoding + packaging ecosystem look like? Are the transcoding and packaging steps integrated into the same service? Does it output the streams/assets in the formats that I require? Or, am I using a JIT packager, and how does it handle DRM?
- If I use CMAF and CENC, does my ecosystem support AES-CBC
cbcsmode throughout? Why is this important? Well,
- Apple FairPlay supports only AES-CBC
- HLS supports only AES-CBC
cbcsmode (irrespective of CMAF)
- Widevine and PlayReady support both AES-128 CTR
cencor AES-128 CBC
- MPEG-DASH with CMAF supports both AES-128 CTR
cencor AES-128 CBC
- MPEG-DASH without CMAF supports only AES-128 CTR
- Apple FairPlay supports only AES-CBC
- How do the above decisions impact customers on legacy hardware?
- How do I keep track of all the changes in the ecosystem’s different components and ensure that it doesn’t have a ripple effect on the rest of your streaming pipeline?
- How do these changes impact the user experience? How does it impact start-up times and latencies?
- Do these DRMs support all my business models – my service needs support for AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, PVOD with the ability to Geo-Block and proactively revoke licenses under certain conditions.
- Scale? If I spin up my own license servers, am I going to scale when I need to?
- Above all, what is this going to cost me?
- What are we going to pay in terms of license fees, technology, infrastructure changes, and workforce hiring and training?
- What is the time-to-market?
- How easy is it to deploy a system-wide change?
- How is it going to impact my customer’s UX when something changes or goes down?
Is your head spinning yet?
Well, take a minute to pause and remind yourself that the list of questions pertains only to DRM.
And we haven’t still talked about the CMS, ingest, transcoding, packaging, storage, CDN, playout, players, analytics, ad-insertion (client/server-side), payment portals for SVOD/TVOD/PVOD, and so many more pieces!
Multi-DRM Can Help You!
In a fragmented and complex ecosystem such as DRM, which has so many inter-dependencies, I feel that it is crucial to pull in the experts, take their help, and focus on growing your business rather than tear your hair apart!
This expertise is provided by multi-DRM vendors who specialize in untangling and simplifying DRM deployments across a variety of players, streaming formats. They have close partnerships with transcoder and player companies (less friction this way), and closely monitor updates in the technology ecosystem to stay ahead of their competition and transfer the benefits to you.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of using multi-DRM vendors to manage your DRM ecosystem.
1. Multi-format and multi-DRM support
Most multi-DRM vendors provide support for MPEG-DASH, HLS, and MSS streaming protocols along with support for Widevine, PlayReady, and FairPlay Streaming. This makes it easy to cover the entire ecosystem from one place instead of a DIY approach to DRM.
2. Keeping up with DRM improvements
Multi-DRM services track and manage DRM providers’ latest improvements and changes in technologies such as FairPlay Streaming, PlayReady, and Widevine. This ensures that you have access to the latest features in a smooth and efficient manner (without affecting your customers – this is key!)
3. Centralized Place to Manage your License & Business Rules
Instead of hopping between different CMSs’ to manage your business/license rules, you now have access to a single CMS where you can set all your business rules, etc. and manage your assets across multiple DRM systems.
4. Partner Support
A significant benefit of using multi-DRM services is that they maintain healthy relationships with many important players in the streaming ecosystem, such as companies that deal with transcoding, packaging, CDN, playout, etc.
Quite often, you’ll find Multi-DRM vendors announcing partnerships with other companies to ensure that their DRM software comes either pre-integrated when you buy another service (such as an Android or iOS player), or with a well-tested and supported SDK to ease integration-pains (we’ve all been there before!)
5. Scalability and Availability
Instead of maintaining license servers, key stores, etc. in a DIY-fashion, when you sign up with a multi-DRM vendor, the problem is essentially theirs. They have the teams and infrastructure working 24×7 to make sure that your service doesn’t go down. High availability and scalability are typically guaranteed, and this will be in the multi-DRM provider’s SLA.
6. Reduce your Time To Market
When you launch a new service, you’ll probably (well, most likely) have a zillion things to think about and juggle simultaneously. By outsourcing your DRM to a reliable multi-DRM vendor, you can cut down on your time-to-market in an increasingly competitive OTT space!
There are a whole lot of benefits to choosing a reliable multi-DRM vendor to help you with your streaming service. I think the most significant benefit is having a team of experts ensuring that a critical component of your service is running correctly!
I only covered a few of the benefits. I am sure each of the multi-DRM vendors has its specialized services and features that go above and beyond what I’ve mentioned.
Thank you, and see you next time!
Krishna Rao Vijayanagar
Krishna Rao Vijayanagar, Ph.D. is the Editor-in-Chief of OTTVerse, a news portal covering technological and business news in the OTT space. With extensive experience in video compression, ABR streaming, video analytics, monetization, and more, Krishna has held multiple roles in R&D, Engineering, and Product ownership at companies such as Harmonic Inc., MediaMelon, and Airtel Digital. Krishna has published numerous articles and research papers on the latest trends in OTT and frequently speaks at industry events to share his insights and perspectives on the fundamentals and the future of OTT streaming.
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