DSTAG about navigation or security?

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 thervidipathe 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 gatewayHeadless 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.





Letter exchanges in FCC’s DSTAC

The FCC DSTAC Committee was created to define downloadable security as a replacement for CableCard. Only there is disagreement as to the scope. The MVPDs (cable, satellite and IPTV providers) want to keep their service offer preserved as one package under their UI (no service “disaggregation”). Device makers and proponents of alternative service models see things more broadly and are of the view that individual service elements should be presentable and searchable by other UIs etc. (called “service theft” by the MVPDs).  Both have written letters (see here and here) to outline their positions to the DSTAC chairman.

Given that the cable card mandate will dissolve end 2015 the MVPDs are not under pressure. If the committee is to deliver (significant) recommendations to the FCC by September 4 it will be a tall order to define a truly open system given the MVPD opposition.

History is also on the side of the MVPDs. They “prevailed” in their strategy to effectively monopolize the user interface used to access their services (as an integrated offer) so far; starting back in 2003 with POD. The only thing that has seriously dented that has been the rise of smartphones, tablets and PCs – though MVPDs have been able to promulgate their service access UI to those devices now. And maybe analogously an open network infrastructure and competition in service offers (e.g. OTT) will be more effective than more regulation on proprietary networks. Which does not mean downloadable security does not have a place: the more open the service market the more important the role of downloadable security could be.

Source: Group to FCC: Avoid ‘Walled-Garden’ Approach to Video | Multichannel

Which DCAS for what

Downloadable CA is a returning topic for the FCC: the regulator in the USA. It has recently revived discussions in the form of a new committee: DSTAC (Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee).

The article in the link below provides a glimpse on the growing complexity of media distribution, rights and the consequences for protection technologies that DSTAC is facing. Given the impetus of key participants to make DSTAC a success you may want to follow this from some distance.

In Europe there is an initiative ongoing without direct regulatory involvement called ECI (Embedded Common Interface). Maybe Europe can make a success where the US failed (like with Cablecard and CI+).

FCC Suffers Content Security’s Growing Pains | Light Reading.

DCAS Revives?

It seems Comcast and Tivo have a deal to make Comcast services available on new Tivo devices using some form of downloadable Conditional Access. All this should be seen in the light of the recent push by cable operators to have the Cablecard mandate on their boxed lifted. The details of the technology are sketchy; it may also be a proprietary DRM style approach.



TiVo and Comcast, which disclosed the agreement in an FCC filing dated July 14, didn’t go into explicit technical detail on how the non-CableCARD approach would work, though it’s possibile that the intended approach would use a downloadable version of video security. But they did note that Comcast will make the solution available to other cable operators “on commercially reasonable terms.” 

The service is reported to include all of Comcast’s cable delivered services, but it is not explicit to which extent the UI and VOD libraries are running on the Tivo box.Time Warner and Cox are also working on an integration with Tivo. Cox will use an IP based approach similar as with it’s service for tablets.

Comcast, TiVo Working On Non-CableCARD Approach | Multichannel.

Comcast, TiVo Complete VOD Connection | Multichannel

M-Net steps up war on DTT encryption

This is an interesting case of open network versus private network interest. Multichoice (PayTV) does not want the standard settop boxes to have CA because it enables a competitor (e-TV) to run their business. Of course it is a valid question to ask “which CA”? And the actual choice is hardly ever a neutral onI. In some Nordig countries (Finland specifically) this was done with Conax in the past; all PayTV operators have equal access to the CA system.

The argument used by Multichoice may be valid: many CA systems have a cost for embedding. But the business model can usually be shifted to pricing the smartcard. Maybe a valid question is whether the access rights to the CA system are reasonable and equal, and.or whether Multichoice has a good erason to wish to select another CA or at least not the same CA as the standard one. The article gives to little background on these questions.

M-Net steps up war on DTT encryption.