Addressing Security Issues in the Competitive FAST Marketplace
The popularity of live-streamed content, especially sports, has been a major factor in the evolution of pirate tactics
Competitive pressures toward free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service differentiation with higher value content have been further intensified by the entry of leading smart TV brands into the crowded field.
With global smart TV ownership now representing 32% of the TV market base, according to Strategy Analytics, these suppliers have amassed enough viewers to make it worthwhile for FAST service providers to gain exposure on their platforms through revenue-sharing partnerships. By 2026, smart TVs will be in 1.1 billion homes representing 51% of the market, the researcher says.
Most of the FAST content offered through these smart TV platforms is drawn from the same pool of providers. For media companies and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), the key in their use of FAST channels to prevent the TV suppliers from drawing their viewers away from their brands is to differentiate their FAST lineups with high-value content.
The Realities of a Piracy-Saturated Marketplace
That, in turn, increases pressure on all FAST providers to take similar steps toward enhancing their content portfolios. Consequently, everyone in the FAST market not already equipped to support application of sophisticated digital rights management (DRM) processes on an as-needed basis should prepare themselves to do so.
Moreover, increased content protection, even when licensing policies don’t require it, is becoming essential in light of how the vast online piracy ecosystem has evolved in tandem with the emergence of linear ad-supported OTT content as a major revenue-driver in the legal domain.
Total global losses to piracy from all types of content theft, including pay TV as well as OTT, will hit $67 billion in 2023, according to Parks Associates. Parks has also reported that 20% of broadband households in the US acknowledge using a piracy device, app or website.
The popularity of live-streamed content, especially sports, has been a major factor in the evolution of pirate tactics. According to Ampere Analysis, as of early 2021 illegal OTT sports streaming worldwide was costing service providers $5.4 billion annually.
Pirates have capitalized on streaming trends through ad-supported websites offering service bundles mimicking legitimate streaming services. These multichannel services, offered for free or at cut-rate subscription prices, feature professional-caliber EPGs and generate subtitles in multiple languages, supporting delivery to global audiences from anywhere in the world.
Often people don’t even realize the sites are illegal or, if they do, consider the theft to be of little consequence. A study by marketing firm LaunchLeap surveying North American millennials aged 18-35 found that out of the 53% who admitted to having used illegal providers to stream TV shows and movies during the previous month, nearly two thirds said that streaming seemed “less wrong” than downloading.
Of course, FAST providers don’t incur subscription losses to piracy, and pirates don’t benefit from interstitial dynamic ad insertion (DAI). Nevertheless. they garner revenue from impressions registered by pre-roll and post-roll ads and ads placed on their EPGs and in other locations external to the content. But viewers’ access to content through these sites hurts FAST providers by diminishing the number of interstitial ad impressions tabulated through legal channels.
Where premium content is concerned, the losses are far greater. As the scale of global theft mounted over the past decade, providers of premium content, led by the motion picture studios, stiffened their licensing requirements. Today they require the highest-caliber public/private key DRM protection and, in many instances, use of forensic watermarking as well in order to identify and shut down piracy websites.
A Viable Path to Addressing Emerging FAST Service Security Needs
Efforts to accommodate these requirements through home-grown platforms and workflows are very costly and especially out of reach for providers like FAST operators who only need to make intermittent use of such protection.
But, fortunately, it’s now possible to benefit from both multi-DRM and watermarking services on a pay-as-you-go basis through cloud-based security-as-a-service providers such as Intertrust ExpressPlay, among others.
By enabling video service providers to implement robust rights management on a usage-driven cost basis without requiring new infrastructure or incurring extraneous setup costs, cloud-based multi-DRM services make it possible for even the smallest FAST providers to cost effectively fulfill stringent studio licensing requirements.
FAST providers need to be able to act on any opportunities to license premium content they deem relevant to their success as ever more producers see the benefits of making such content available in the FAST market. Cloud-based multi-DRM services enable FAST providers to act quickly at minimal costs.
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Bo Ferm is a Product Marketing Manager for Intertrust ExpressPlay with over 30 years of experience in digital TV and pay-TV, especially content protection technology, B2B and B2C distribution models, managed IPTV and DVB systems, and secure OTT content delivery. He also supports the launch of new products, technical authoring, and ad-hoc project management for Intertrust ExpressPlay.