A standard for DRM?
There is a shift underway. The industry is moving from a world of silo solutions to a standards-driven environment where interoperability is the rule, not the exception. Before MPEG-DASH and Common Encryption (CENC) picking a DRM technology meant not only deciding about DRM, but about many other important aspects of a streaming business. Each DRM system required specific streaming formats and each DRM system only supported a subset of consumer devices, thus ultimately limiting the streaming service’s reach.
Implementing several DRM systems side-by-side was possible, but was a complex and expensive endeavor. Such an approach required simultaneously preparing and storing the same content in different streaming formats, dictated by the DRM systems used. Moreover, CDN costs were increased, because the same content would be cached several times due to different streaming formats.
Most service providers shied away from highly increased complexity and cost and decided to go with only one DRM technology. This choice kept complexity at a survivable level, but limited service reach.
The rise of multi-DRM
Today there is a set of standards available that allows for using several DRM systems while keeping complexity and cost low. MPEG-DASH and Common Encryption (CENC) define an adaptive bitrate streaming standard and a way of signaling DRM information that is independent of the selected DRM technology.
HTML5 and Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) enable playback of DRM protected MPEG-DASH streams directly in the browser without the need for plugins like Flash or Silverlight. However, today major browsers support different DRM technologies. For example, Google Chrome supports only Widevine DRM whereas Internet Explorer support only PlayReady DRM. Looking at operating systems we find a similar situation. Natively, Windows supports PlayReady, Android supports Widevine, and iOS support FairPlay. To enable playback for all scenarios multiple DRM technologies must be supported simultaneously.
Axinom’s multi-DRM services hide all this complexity and allow service providers to concentrate on their core business. With Axinom’s solutions service providers deal with all DRM technologies in a unified way that abstracts from the individual technologies. Service providers prepare content only once and stream to their audience using MPEG-DASH and Common Encryption. All client devices receive the bitwise exact same stream. The decision which DRM technology to use in order to obtain keys for decrypting the content is taken on the client device. An Android device will contact the Widevine DRM service whereas an Xbox device or a video player running in Internet Explorer will turn to the PlayReady DRM service.
There are some key advantages that this approach provides:
- Consumers get the best possible user experience, regardless which operating system they use, because apps can rely on the natively supported DRM technology.
- Service providers increase reach. Before, their choice of DRM technology limited their audience.
- Some DRM technologies can turn out to be very expensive when being used on other vendors’ platforms. Such client-side licensing costs are eliminated entirely.
- Content preparation workflows on service provider side are dramatically simplified.
- Cost within the delivery chain is reduced, because origin servers and CDN caches store each asset only once due to the use of only one streaming protocol: MPEG-DASH.