The DSTAG report is out and it is reflecting two views on how multiple devices could be used to access payTV services from MVPDs (large PayTV network operators). This article is a commentary on an excellent Jeff Baumgartner report on multichannel.com
The first is the “Allvid” approach: which proposes the concept of a central gateway that makes the services available throughout the home network including access to metadata so the device makes can aggregate services and build their own use interface. Independent video device makers and service aggregators support this. And there is something to be said in favor: what special UI requirements should there be in delivering a subscribed channel in a “standard” way including accompanying metadata, which does not mean there are no relevant new and possibly complex features in this domain, tying channel content to associated services like replay-tv, interactive services, catch up services, (N)PVR, interactive or targeted advertising etc.
The second is the “App” approach that proposes to simply use the downloadable application of new devices to make MVPD service bundles available: but simply through the UI of the MVPD. MVPDs and Hollywood is supporting this. It is simple and it works, and like it or not, brings MVPD content through their own UI on second screens.
It is interesting to see companies taking positions, of course lining up with their business interest as reflected in the featured article. Interesting is also the reducing role of security: it seems to be a given, and not playing the key rol in untying the lock that MVPDs have through control of the CA system: the Allvid concept uses a central gateway (with presumeably embedded CA/DRM), the “App” appproach is based on dvice resident and/or download software approaches. There are some comments from Verimetrix as to their proprietary downloadable CA approach and some comments from Nagra that downloadable CA is “good”. But the real discussion is not on who controls the CA, it is on who controls the user interface.
Last of all there is DLNA promoting Vidipath as a technology permitting content from a central gateway on any device in the home with the MVPD user interface: it can be swept under the “App” camp for all practical purposes: it may turn out to be useful negotiation candy.
What does this mean for downloadable CA: is it dead in the USA? It is now just a component of the bigger issue of whether 3’rd parties should be able to offer navigation service in conjunction with video services. That is also where Cablecard and downloadable CA originated; but these days the issue is transcending the originally dominating security system lock question.
There could be an interesting compromise in the MVPDs being forced to offer “allvid” style headless gateways to customers that request this. The gateway could support Vidipath as a means to offer the operator’s UI on any device as a standard option (not that Vidipath is running on all second screens but it seems that is what MVPDs would like the FCC to think).
Headless gateways help creating a concept that can deal with various network technologies (cable, satellite, optical, IP etc.), but it has some issues: expensive for small installations, power hungry and raising the complexity of system integration and interoperability. Also there are questions regarding the mandate of the FCC to rule about matters outside the conditional access. So maybe the “Allvid” camp is betting on the wrong horse and they could pay more attention to what Verimetrix and Nagra are saying and reconsider the focus on networking towards a more flexible interoperability approach.