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Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can become fully fledged Pay TV operators in their own right by establishing end-to-end managed infrastructures. This is the view of John Paul, Chief Product Officer at EchoStar Advanced Technologies, which earlier this year acquired Move Networks, the pioneer of Adaptive Bit Rate Streaming (ABRS). He believes ISPs can achieve this by effectively turning their networks into end-to-end CDNs (Content Distribution Networks) so that they become like walled garden IPTV service providers.
Paul argues that this could overcome the resistance of premium content rights owners, which is currently the major force holding back OTT video. “It is relatively straightforward to get rights over a managed network,” he says. “If ISPs can keep their traffic off the wild Internet by acting like CDNs, then in our opinion that is a managed network.”
It remains to be seen whether rights holders will accept this argument, and so ISPs also need to impress the big content owners by continuing to improve their security so that it gets close to the levels seen in walled garden Pay TV services. This parity will be achieved, according to Steve Christian, VP of Marketing at conditional access vendor Verimatrix. “We absolutely believe that it is possible to replicate in Internet TV distribution the key aspects of security that are available on more traditional pay service distribution architectures,” he says.
“Our VCAS for Internet TV and ViewRight Web solutions employ many of the same technical principles as our IPTV security solutions. Both are architected, for example, around the use of X.509 certificates and an application of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).”
Christian argues that in some respects OTT actually has advantages over satellite or terrestrial distribution by being connected, which means that it can exploit existing techniques in end-to-end IP security. “It means that the systems analysis and innovation that has contributed to the world of renewable software-based security and IP-based security solutions becomes more significant in the development of the supporting business,” he explains.
OTT does have one big weakness, though: the fact that the operator no longer controls the end devices, at least not yet. This is still the case if the ISP has a fully managed network, assuming that users are still free to access services from whatever device they please. So Christian concedes that cooperation with the device makers at some hardware level will be needed to complete this final piece of the OTT security puzzle, just as was required with set-top boxes.
“As the market matures and the significance of paid services becomes more central to these device types, the vendors do have a full range of hardware and software tools that can be brought to bear in the integration of more sophisticated solutions,” he adds. “That is already happening increasingly with premium content services on connected TVs. The security vendor takes the care to ensure that its implementation inside a connected TV device exploits all of the mechanisms and capabilities that those platforms can offer.”