Following changes in web browsers which began late last year, it’s clear that DRM plugins are being phased out. On November 18th, 2014 Google released a new version of Chrome that no longer supports Silverlight on the Apple Mac platform. Silverlight is the plugin that is used to allow playback of PlayReady protected content, and in the next release of Chrome, which is planned for January 21st, 2015, it will be disabled by default on PCs.
Why is this a big deal? Well, it means that any viewers using Chrome will no longer be able to access PlayReady protected content, and with Chrome having the lion’s share of the desktop browser market (between 30% and 50% depending on the region), that could mean a lot of unhappy viewers.
So, why can’t viewers just change to a different browser? Of course they can, but when viewers aren’t able to access the desired content in a way they are used to, there can be significant fallout. Some users may just blame their service provider. At best, viewers will understand that they need to change browser, at worst operators will lose them as a customer.
These changes mark the beginning of an industry-wide evolution. Things are going to become more complex and fragmented. Offering an OTT service with a single DRM will be a thing of the past. The different DRM technologies will become increasingly device and browser-specific, requiring OTT businesses to develop a true multi-DRM strategy.
As this fragmentation continues, managing multiple DRMs, devices and browsers will become increasingly difficult. Operators will need to manage complex ecosystems and should look to ways to effectively manage their resources and free themselves in order to focus on their core business of delivering a top quality service.
Evolution of web browsers
As the industry moves to HTML5 web browsers that can play DRM-protected content, the need for plugins such as Silverlight, Adobe Flash or Widevine Plugin are progressively being eliminated.
This is generally seen as positive, providing improved speed, stability and security. As plugins have been widely considered an easy entry-point for hackers, the protection of premium content will be enhanced on HTML5 platforms. The installation and update of plugins provide a poor user experience and can even incur operator costs in customer support. In all fairness, plugins will probably not be missed from the viewer experience.
However, as the main browser vendors also happen to be some of the main DRM technology providers, each browser vendor has implemented a specific DRM (usually their own proprietary one) directly within their own browser.
As web browsers implement a specific DRM technology in their platforms and at the same time phase out support for other DRM plugins, viewers will no longer be able to watch content that is protected with a DRM technology different to the one embedded in their browser.
How this will affect OTT service providers
Content distributors and operators delivering video services to PC or Mac will have to ensure they support all the main DRM formats needed to reach the different browsers used by their viewers.
However, the impact is much greater than that affecting the DRM security. Indeed, this change will impact several components and functions of the overall video delivery ecosystem, including:
• DASH packaging with common encryption: Operators will need to look at upgrading their content packaging to support DASH and CENC. Packagers need to be integrated with multi-DRM, CENC-capable key management systems.
• Support for multi-DRM: Given the browser market fragmentation, operators need to have a multi-DRM strategy to address the main web browsers.
• Migration path: Operators will need to support legacy DRMs and delivery systems (e.g. for connected TV’s, older browser versions and devices) for a period of years in the coming future.
To remain in step with the industry-wide evolution, operators and service providers need to make a full analysis of their current business, their operational infrastructure and their future needs. They need to evaluate the different DRM technologies that will be needed to reach their current and future target platforms.
And they need to look to whether managing an increasingly complex ecosystem is effective use of resources or whether they should source a technology-agnostic solution that will reduce complexity and simplify day-to-day operation while maintaining an optimal experience for their viewers.
About the Author
Richard Scott, SVP Sales & Marketing, Irdeto