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Irdeto looks to make it easier and quicker for Pay TV operators to deliver  premium content

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At security specialist Irdeto’s IBC stand this year, the demonstrations were all about how to make it easier – and quicker – for pay-TV operators to roll out premium content to customers.

The most innovative of these was arguably a new 4K TV set which, through a collaboration with Turkish CE manufacturer Vestel, integrates Irdeto’s newly-launched TV Cloaked CA solution, allowing viewers to access premium pay-TV services directly through the TV without the need for a separate set-top box or external conditional access module (CAM). In principle, the partnership unlocks the ability for any operator in Europe to directly deliver pay-TV content where new generation Vestel 4K TVs are on sale.

Frank Poppelsdorf, Product Director, Content Security, at Irdeto, said the product was most appropriate either in retail environments or territories where there are a number of Pay TV operators prepared to work together to promote the solution. “When [consumers] connect the TV to satellite, cable or terrestrial, all they have to do is call the operator and enable the TV for scrambled content,” he says. This is in contrast to more complex procedures required for STBs or CAMs, where “they would have to call the operator first, then the operator would have to ship a device to the consumer.”

The Vestel TVs use chipsets from Irdeto partner MStar, which Poppelsdorf notes is “the number one chipset provider to TV manufacturers – so this solution can also be applied to other TV manufacturers.” However, he concedes that “it won’t work for every single market, because some operators may still want to completely control the UI and the look-and-feel.”

An alternative STB-free solution was also on offer on the Irdeto stand, in the shape of a USB form-factor CAM complying with the new CI Plus 2.0 standard, which uses Irdeto’s Cloaked CA security product. This has now completed a rigorous review by Cartesian against the stringent usage rules for 4K UHD premium content included in the respected Farncombe Security Audit, which is aligned with MovieLabs’ Enhanced Content Protection (ECP) requirements and industry best practices.

CI Plus 2.0 USB capability offers operators the ability to reach subscribers cost-effectively by adding support for Pay TV services with a simple USB dongle plugged into TVs. Given Cloaked CA’s compliance with MovieLabs requirements, the product also gives operators confidence that they are complying with stringent security standards for premium content.

Poppelsdorf says Irdeto is strongly backing CI Plus and its new USB format, which was much in evidence at IBC this year. “[The standard] has taken a long time, but I think it is actually almost done,” says Poppelsdorf. “What they have is normally a very lengthy sunrise period, i.e. when manufacturers can start implementing it. That’s typically, I think, 18 months or something like that. Our goal is to really accelerate that […] by providing this solution.”

Under current EU law, European digital TV sets are required to carry a CI slot using the PCMCIA standard, which Poppelsdorf says implies “a large cost to the manufacturers.” It is also physically cumbersome, “so if you want to make a flat TV it’s difficult to put that in.” Since TV sets over 40-inches generally include one or more USB slots, it will become much easier for TV manufacturers to support CI Plus 2.0 globally, he says.

For those operators seeking an STB solution, Irdeto was also keen to promote what it perceived to be the virtues of Android TV. “With Android TV, it’s really about time to market,” says Poppelsdorf. “You get a lot of the OTT parts basically for free and because of the certification all of the applications will work, guaranteed. For example, if you want to have Netflix, it’s there – you don’t have to do anything. […] You get DRMs included like PlayReady, Widevine, at the highest level of security.”

What’s missing from Android TV is the DVB/Pay TV stack, but Irdeto has now created a stack of its own, notes Poppelsdorf. “Again, we did this together with MStar to make sure that the time to market is shortened. When an operator wants to do a new set-up box they can basically get that complete stack and then all they have to do is focus on what’s really important to them – like the UI, the look-and-feel and things like that. They don’t have to worry about all that lengthy integration.”

Now that sports rights owners are increasingly mandating anti-piracy requirements, Irdeto is also keen to help Pay TV operators defend their premium content against pirates – but argues that implementing watermarking technology on its own will not be sufficient for them to reap any tangible benefits. At IBC the company was accordingly promoting what it described as a ‘360-degree’ approach to security – one that combines watermarking with proactive online detection and enforcement services.

Mark Mulready, VP of Cybersecurity Services, argues that “what we’re seeing now more and more is casual pirates, or what we would call social pirates, [where] people are using social media networks to show pirated streams during games or events.”

Mulready notes that during the recent Mayweather-McGregor boxing event, Irdeto identified 239 separate pirate streams, of which 165 were ‘social media streams’. “One of those streams alone had 470,000 concurrent viewers,” he said. “In total we identified almost 3 million end users gaining access to those streams.”

This implies, says Mulready, that operators “need to have technology that allows you to scan the Internet, bring all the pirated content in, and analyse it quickly. That’s where things like source detection, particularly watermarking, are now critical. Because obviously if you can track the source of the pirated content back to its origins at subscriber level and switch it off, that’s the best way, or most effective way, of dealing with the piracy.”

Irdeto has a compliance team whose job is to liaise with ISPs and try and get the content taken down during the course of an event as quickly as possible. But Mulready points out there also exist “non-compliant hosting sites”, run by pirate networks that are criminal and highly sophisticated. “And that’s where you need to collect the evidence. And this is also what we do with our customers, collecting all the evidence that they need to be able to take enforcement action.”

Mulready points to a recent action where the Premier League and Irdeto collaborated with law enforcement agencies to shut down one of the largest IPTV piracy businesses in Europe, after raids involving 12 locations across Spain and Bulgaria. Dubbed “Operation Casper,” eight individuals were arrested for the illegal distribution of 1,000 pay-TV channels across two ISPs using IPTV distribution.

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