Beginning in 2014, Rogers Media began streaming live sports through its Sportsnet NOW service, offering up the NHL, MLB, NBA, the Premiere League, and more, all protected with AES-128 encryption. But that’s changed.
Earlier in 2017, one of Rogers’ “very significant rights holders brought to our attention the fact that Sportsnet was serving as the source of an inordinate number of pirated streams, and they were able to identify this simply through the local burn from the TV channel that’s carried over to the digital service,” said Dale Fallon, digital products director of Sports for Rogers Communications, speaking Nov. 15 during the webinar “The Content Protection Challenge,” presented by NeuLion and the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA).
“We thought we had good protection in place, that we were doing all the right things, with our monitoring and tools at our disposal.”
Sportsnet NOW had become a very popular source for pirates, who were redirecting source streams to viewers, and Rogers decided a content protection upgrade was needed. So, over the summer, the company worked with digital video tech firm NeuLion to implement new digital rights management (DRM) solutions for its content across devices and browsers, implementing Fairplay, PlayReady and Widevine, and moving to an HTML5 player instead of using Adobe Flash on its own website.
“It was a heavy project, not trivial, because we had a variety of client devices we needed to support, apps, browsers, make sure each and every one was working securely,” Fallon said. “It was a project that wasn’t a piece of cake, and it was delivered on time.”
The result? “We’re no longer a significant source for pirated live streams for the content in question, we definitely have to keep monitoring this,” he added. There are still instances of Sportsnet streams on pirate sites, but “we accomplished what we set out to do with DRM, remove the simple paths that pirates use.”
For James Woodward, VP of technology for NeuLion, the Rogers Sportsnet DRM moves is indicative of how content rights holders have needed to adjust to the onslaught of streaming piracy of live events today. “What we see with service providers over the last 10 years is that as over-the-top services have progressed, many broadcasters and telecommunications companies have [needed to upgrade] from being able to do DRM in house, releasing to a single device,” he said during the webinar.
Multi-DRM solutions are used to make sure only those with a license have access to the stream, effectively shutting down many of the once-easy live stream piracy sources, he added. And the need for multi-DRM solutions speaks to the need to cater to every devices and browser out there.
“Something we see with people pirating content, is because often people want to watch that content on a [specific] device,” Woodward said. “We have to make sure we have more devices that can stream content legally. It gives people the ability to watch content on any device, and that means a multi-DRM approach.”
According to forecasts from Digital TV Research, revenues lost to online piracy could double between 2016 and 2022 to nearly $52 billion, and that figure doesn’t include what’s lost via pirated live streams of sports and other events. And many operators today continue to miscalculate the benefits of an in-house DRM solution, ultimately abandoning their investment in favor of an outsourced DRM solution.
“This is an interesting challenge,” said Guy Finley, executive director of MESA. “We’re trying to get to the point, ultimately, and it may take us years to get there, where DRM is everywhere, and every piece of content is watermarked and identified as it moves through a system.”