Home Analysis HD+ lowers barriers to premium Pay TV services with STB-type dongle that...

HD+ lowers barriers to premium Pay TV services with STB-type dongle that comes free with Samsung TVs

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HD+, the German satellite platform and subsidiary of SES, is the first company to deploy TVkey, the revolutionary USB dongle STB-type device that leverages the tuning and decoding inside a television but takes care of all content security – including the latest MovieLabs requirements. TVkey lowers the cost of customer premise equipment for encrypted services to the point where devices can be seeded into the market with promotions, and the hope is that this will boost uptake of Pay TV services.

Specifically, the ambition is to make it more likely that consumers bringing home new 4K/UHD television sets will look to a platform operator, like HD+, for UHD content to watch rather than default to streaming services from the likes of Netflix. The TVkey solution has been jointly developed by Samsung and NAGRA and is billed as a “next-generation security solution that works directly on TV sets without a set-top box or remote.”

The reason we are referring to it as a set-top box type device is that it is a standalone piece of hardware that is needed to provide access to the TV service, in what is becoming a familiar form factor for set-top boxes (e.g. streaming sticks) and that is how consumers may look at it. In technical terms it is more like a conditional access module as its sole purpose is to take care of security. It has previously been described as a conditional access dongle.

The TVkey decrypts the operator signal, then re-encrypts it with a local control word that is sent over the USB data link to a SoC (System on Chip) host in the television set. This means the control word is only good for one television, countering content redistribution. Content from multiple tuners (in the television set) can be processed simultaneously. The latest Samsung TVs contain a NAGRA hardware root-of-trust, which enables a Secure Video Path as required by the MovieLabs specs covering security for 4K UHD/HDR content.

During a promotional period, buyers of compatible Samsung TV sets at participating dealers in Germany will receive the HD+ TVkey free of charge providing they register on the HD+ website. This also entitles them to a free six-month HD+ subscription, which could of course be converted to a regular subscription.

HD+ currently offers over 50 HD channels and has a UHD demo channel (UHD1 by Astra / HD+). “The HD+ TVkey gives consumers HD+ channels without the need of a separate receiver or CAM module with smartcard – meaning access to HD+ becomes even easier,” explains Georges Agnes, Managing Director and COO at HD PLUS GmbH. “Working with Samsung also gives us the ability to reach new customers as soon as they buy a new television through instant HD+ service activation.”

“We are delighted to be part of the first commercial launch of TVkey,” declares Hyogun Lee, Executive Vice President, Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics. “By being the first company to launch TVkey, HD+ is showing true market leadership. It is demonstrating how this technology can be deployed in a way that is beneficial to both operators and new TV customers.

“The TVkey content security approach meets stringent Hollywood requirements for protection of 4K and HDR content. It also allows Pay TV operators to easily add new subscribers and broaden their existing business models, strongly reducing customer acquisition costs,” the Samsung executive continues.

Pierre Roy, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Digital TV at NAGRA, says: “We are providing consumers and Pay TV operators with a flexible and cost-effective route to high-quality services, while offering state-of-the-art Pay TV security.

“By integrating our latest content protection technology alongside open standards, such as USB and HbbTV/HTML5, we not only ensure excellent security, but also deliver a feature-rich, operator-branded user experience directly to the consumer’s TV.”

One important technical point to emphasise is that TVkey does not require a return channel of any kind – this solution works on one-way broadcast systems. The TVkey/Samsung combination meets all MovieLabs requirements for Enhanced Content Protection (including Secure Media Path and support for watermarking and operator-controlled device service revocation). It therefore supports 4K-UHD, HDR and early release content.

As you can read in this Videonet report, TVkey also provides a low-cost option for emerging Pay TV markets, including those where consumers are already used to flexible contract and pricing options, like in Latin America. Alexander Sacher, VP Media Platform Solutions for SES and the CTO at HD Plus, explained this potential last autumn in the context of the work that MX1, the SES-owned backend and distribution service provider, does.

“We build end-to-end TV platforms and we are currently working in Africa and South America and with customers who want to target expat communities in Europe, like with Asian content, via satellite and OTT,” Sacher revealed. “A typical TV platform customer might want to concentrate fully on content acquisition, sales and marketing while we take care of all technical services, including how you get onto all kinds of end devices.

“TVkey is interesting in this context as it lowers the investment for both the operator and the end-customer. Whether the service is subsidized or the consumer buys the hardware, the cost is significantly lower than for a conditional access module. And there is no sacrifice in terms of security.”

Sacher liked the way countermeasures and operator access control could be managed efficiently with this device, too. “TVkey is a perfect addition to the turnkey solution we can offer customers.”

TVkey is viewed by NAGRA as an important complement to the CI+ CAM module, something that could be used in markets where CI+ standards are not enforced.

Photo: The TVkey device developed by NAGRA and Samsung, and now deployed with HD+

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