Elevate Your Game with Secure Live Streaming

Enhancing Live Sports Security

A Resilient Approach

In the age of digital transformation, live sports streaming has emerged as a critical platform for fans worldwide, offering them real-time access to their favorite events. This shift towards digital has been challenging, particularly regarding content security and protection against unauthorized distribution. Implementing robust digital rights management (DRM) solutions has become paramount for content providers to safeguard their streams. This document explores the general best practices for securing live sports streaming. It illustrates how these strategies were effectively applied by a leading multi-DRM provider, Axinom, during a critical live sports event.

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Challenges in Live Sports Streaming

The unique appeal of live sports events, characterized by their unpredictability and real-time excitement, also brings forth significant challenges in content delivery and protection.

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Scalability

Handling sudden spikes in viewer numbers without compromising streaming quality.

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Security

Protecting content from piracy and unauthorized access is crucial for preserving revenue and copyright.

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Reliability

Ensuring uninterrupted streaming service, especially during high-demand events.

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Compatibility

Delivering content across a wide range of devices and platforms.

Best Practices for Secure Live Sports Streaming

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Implementing Robust DRM Solutions

A foundational step in securing live sports content is implementing a comprehensive DRM strategy encompassing encryption, key management, and access control. DRM technologies are essential for protecting the stream across various platforms and devices.

Building Redundancy and Fallback Systems

Setting up redundant streaming paths and fallback mechanisms is crucial to ensure service reliability. This involves creating multiple levels of backup for every critical component in the streaming chain, from the origin server to the CDN, minimizing the risk of service interruptions.

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Scaling Infrastructure Dynamically

Adapting to the variable demand typical of live sports events requires a flexible, scalable infrastructure. Cloud-based solutions offer the elasticity needed to scale resources up or down in response to viewer traffic, maintaining optimal streaming performance at all times.

Thorough planning and pre-provisioning of computing, storage, and network resources are equally important as the ability to scale up and down automatically as demand changes.

Real-time Monitoring and Support

Continuous monitoring of the streaming service allows for the immediate detection and resolution of any issues. Real-time support during live events can significantly enhance the viewer experience by minimizing disruptions.

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Axinom's Implementation

Dynamic Scaling And Hypercare Support

Axinom leveraged cloud-based technologies capable of dynamically adjusting to the fluctuating viewer numbers to address the scalability challenge. Additionally, Axinom's HyperCare team provided on-the-ground support, actively monitoring the system's performance and swiftly addressing any technical issues as they arose. This proactive stance on scaling and support was pivotal in accommodating the massive audience without compromising stream quality or security.

In collaboration with the customer, Axinom prepared for the event. Viewership estimates suggested that during a 3 to 5-minute timeframe at the beginning of the event, Axinom should expect to receive up to 15000 DRM license requests per second. Based on this, Axinom pre-provisioned DRM license servers.

During the event, Axinom senior support engineers joined a Hypercare session with the customer and over a dozen other service providers, each of them responsible for a different part of the end-to-end solution (e.g., live encoding, stream ingest, origin services, session management, user authentication, CDNs, analytics, etc.).

Midstream, the customer’s team discovered that memory consumption in crucial session-management components was reaching unhealthy levels, unrelated to the DRM service. Several mitigation strategies were discussed on the call. One proposed solution was to reset all client sessions on the server side. This would free up memory. Anticipating unexpected problems, the customer had built the client-side components in a resilient way. They would handle such a reset gracefully and simply renew sessions, without impacting the viewer experience. After a short discussion it was decided to proceed with this approach and reset all client sessions. However, the team understood that this reset would lead to all clients requesting new DRM licenses.

But this time, the available timeframe for delivering DRM licenses to the entire audience was much shorter than at the event's start, because all viewers would request new DRM licenses roughly simultaneously. The team determined that a service capacity of 15000 requests per second would not be enough. A quick calculation suggested peaks of up to 45000 DRM license requests per second. Axinom staff quickly provisioned more DRM license server resources to meet the expected demand.

Then, the customer’s team “pulled the plug” and reset all sessions. The audience did not recognize what was happening behind the scenes. Axinom DRM license service saw a peak of almost 24000 DRM license service requests coming in at the busiest second (compare fig. 1). It turned out that we over-provisioned the service by a factor of 2, but this was a tiny price to pay, compared to the service otherwise not being able to serve the requested DRM licenses and have the live stream interrupt for the majority of the audience.

Axinom DRM License Service Requests

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Conclusion

Securing live sports streaming requires a multifaceted approach, combining DRM solutions with redundancy planning, scalable infrastructure, and real-time operational support. Axinom's execution during the sports event exemplifies the application of these best practices, showcasing the effectiveness of a comprehensive security strategy in the high-stakes environment of live sports broadcasting. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, these practices will remain essential for content providers aiming to deliver secure, high-quality streaming experiences to sports fans around the globe.

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