Content security in the modern video distribution landscape

As an industry, video distribution has faced no greater threat than content piracy. Illicit activity conducted by professional digital pirates who operate smart interfaces, and who are capable of hacking into the most complex security systems, have threatened organisations large or small for decades.

In what can be described as a fight for market share between licensed and illegal platforms, video content piracy has become a fully-fledged business which requires an entire industry’s commitment to combat.

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The Media + Networks State of the Industry survey, commissioned ahead of TV Connect 2018, saw respondents representing 78 companies from a broad range of video industry sectors identify content piracy as the most problematic industry challenge. Notably on the radar of every sector, including broadcast, mobile, OTT, content creation, cable and satellite, and more, content piracy persists to have an unwelcome presence industry-wide.

An issue that came out on top in the 2017 survey, content piracy is here for the long haul. With content piracy’s roots firmly stuck in the industry’s ground, it’s become more important than ever to deploy advanced security measures against content piracy to not only protect a service’s technical infrastructure and confidential data, but to maintain content originality and authenticity.

Content everywhere

In a media environment where video content, varying from TV shows, films and live sports, is everywhere, professional pirates prosper. Beginning with the early popularity of BitTorrent sites, illegal peer-to-peer file sharing has been encouraged as new attack surfaces have grown in their numbers. These include OTT streaming services, social media, and live streaming platforms such as Facebook Live and Periscope. Accessible from standard broadband protocol and wireless network technologies such as 4G and soon-to-be-available, 5G, content is readily available to anyone from anywhere. Opening more opportunities for pirates to conduct illicit activity, content piracy becomes harder to regulate – especially in the live sports arena where licensing is at risk.

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As video content can now reach a range of platforms, from creation to distribution, content leaves its digital footprint across multiple systems. On numerous channels, screens and platforms, content is managed and worked on by several teams and studios, and then distributed to audiences both locally and internationally. Every step of the production cycle is now digitalised, making content at a higher risk of piracy. And considering the interest and competition in content creation, costs are commonly directed to benefit these processes and big-name individuals and studios involved, instead of on measures to protect this content and steer pirates away.

Couple the above with our IoT obsession and we are finding ourselves caught in a large scale connected device ecosystem where content is seeing no limits. Looking at billions of devices vulnerable to illicit hacking, content distributors are asking if it is possible to gain greater control without limiting the technical growth and innovation behind these platforms. When advances in technology are vital to both fighting piracy and developing innovative content platforms, it has become a question of priority for media organisations.

Content protection

In a fast-paced, constantly-evolving media landscape, it’s essential for media organisations to find a balance between ‘content everywhere’ and content protection. While targeting more audiences across many devices and platforms has been an industry breakthrough – and in some cases, a priority – it’s posed new challenges for content distributors relating to content security.

Revenue is just one of these challenges. According to the Online TV Piracy Forecasts report by Digital TV Research, revenues lost to online piracy will nearly double to $51.6 billion between 2016 and 2022. While this research applies to TV shows and films only, not sports or pay TV, it speaks volumes about the state of content security in the modern video distribution landscape. Money is going into the wrong pocket – funding illicit activity which grows in intelligence over time. As cyber criminals evolve to be more masterful and savvy, technology needs to outrun them.

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A cat-and-mouse game, the inherently fast-moving nature of technology causes pirates to adjust their methods to challenge new content security solutions. Using AI and machine learning to detect illegal activity by identifying stolen components in a piece of content has seen pirates switch out detectable content to trick systems. Stronger content protection solutions such as watermarking, which embeds hidden information in the content to uniquely show the identity of its owner, are currently driving developments in technology tackling online piracy. These solutions need to constantly evolve – as do the media organisations which deploy them – to stay ahead.

Looking to the future

Media organisations need to not only view cyber security solutions as an investment but devote time to carrying out content protection measures on a long-term basis. Online piracy is a threat that will not go away; it is a threat which morphs over time. For this reason, organisations should stay up-to-date with the latest anti-piracy technology as it comes to market.

Media organisations need to target and satisfy audiences with the right video content on the right platform in the right way. As pirates capitalise on audience desire, it is imperative for content distributors to deliver consumers the content they love seamlessly at a fair price, so audiences are retained, and revenues are benefiting the original content owner.

>See also: Is Microsoft’s anti-piracy programme spyware?

While considering pricing solutions, user experience, and flexible content packaging, organisations must ensure content is protected at every stage of the media lifecycle by closely monitoring the content supply chain, from production to screen. Content distributors should also monitor content usage patterns to detect unusual activity more quickly.

The industry needs to unite in the fight against pirates, and transparently educate consumers and businesses by providing real-time analysis of piracy incidents to paint the damage illicit activity has on the media industry. Through industry-wide collaboration, media organisations can develop means to combat professional pirates and collectively grow market share of legal content offerings.


Sourced by Niall Hunt, digital content lead, TV Connect

Kayleigh Bateman

Kayleigh Bateman was the Editor of Information Age in 2018. She joined Vitesse Media from WeAreTheCIty where she was the Head of Digital Content and Business Development. During her time at WeAreTheCity...

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