Last week’s big IBC conference in Amsterdam brought a raft of announcements from video content protection vendors, most of which were typical customer success stories and strategic partnerships. One product launch announcement, however, was particularly interesting: Irdeto Intelligence, which launched last Friday.
Irdeto Intelligence is the result of the company’s acquisition of BayTSP in October 2011. The service is an extension of BayTSP’s existing offering and had been under development before the acquisition. It crawls the Internet looking for infringing content and provides an interactive dashboard that enables customers to see data such as where infringing files were found (by ISP or other service provider) and the volume for each title.
Before Irdeto acquired BayTSP last year, it was one of a handful of independent companies that crawl the Internet looking for infringing content; others include Attributor, Civolution, MarkMonitor, and Peer Media Technologies. The company wanted to grow its business beyond its core piracy monitoring service. It found — like other companies of its type — that the mountains of data on so-called piracy that it was collecting had value beyond helping copyright owners generate cease-and-desist or takedown notices.
The big issue with piracy monitoring services is — as with so many other technologies we discuss here — who pays for them. Hollywood studios (and other types of media businesses) pay the companies mentioned above to find infringing copies of their content. Now that BayTSP is part of a leading video security business, its customers become managed network operators (cable, satellite, telco-TV) and broadcasters. As I mentioned last year when the acquisition was announced, a cynic could read the deal as Hollywood’s attempt to push piracy monitoring costs downstream to operators, just as it does the cost of DRM and conditional access.
Irdeto confirmed that it is still offering BayTSP’s existing services to copyright owners. Still, Irdeto’s acquisition of BayTSP is something of a gamble. It’s part of a theme that I see growing in importance over the next few years: competition from Internet-based “over the top” (OTT) services is forcing managed network operators to offer “TV Anywhere” type services for viewing their programming over Internet-connected devices such as PCs, tablets, and mobile handsets.
Hollywood has always had a strong relationship with managed network operators on content protection because their economic incentives were aligned: Hollywood wanted to mitigate infringement of its movies and TV shows; operators wanted to mitigate theft of access to their networks. This has led to set-top boxes that are fortresses of security compared, say, to e-book readers, portable music players, and (especially) PCs.
But once operator-licensed content leaves managed networks to go “over the top,” just how much responsibility do operators have to protect content? This is a question that will loom larger and larger.
Other providers of conditional access (CA) technology for operators, such as NDS (now Cisco) and Nagra, offer piracy monitoring services. But those have typically been limited in scope to things like sharing of control words (content keys used in CA systems for the DVB standard), not illegal file-sharing. In acquiring BayTSP, Irdeto is betting that operators will want to pay more for this type of monitoring.
But why would, say, a cable operator care about content uploaded to file-sharing sites? Once they have this information, how would they use it if not to generate takedown notices or other legal means of getting infringing content removed?
Irdeto has two answers to this question. Most important is live event content, particularly sports. Hollywood has nothing to do with this type of content. Operators and terrestrial broadcasters suffer when users can view live events on illegal streaming sites with only slight time delays. Irdeto Intelligence updates its search results at five-minute intervals, so that operators can act to get illegal streams shut down very quickly.
The second reason has to do with the fact that more and more operators are offering so-called triple play services which include Internet service in addition to TV and telephony. A triple play provider will be seeking licenses to content from Hollywood, which will be more willing to grant licenses if provider actively addresses infringing content on its ISP service.
Irdeto says that it has signed two customers for Irdeto Intelligence so far, and that it received strong interest for the service on the show floor at IBC. It will be interesting to see how other video security vendors react as OTT and TV Anywhere continue to grow.