BuyDRM: 20 Years of Keeping Content Secure

Since 2001, Austin, Texas-based BuyDRM has had a singular focus: provide studio-approved multi-digital rights management (DRM) and other content security services for the entertainment industry. Whether it’s been disc, downloads or streaming, BuyDRM has been there at every step of modern entertainment, protecting content owners’ IP.

Hunter Levy, director of marketing for BuyDRM, spoke with MESA about the content protection challenges facing the industry today, why low-latency streaming and offline support are crucial must-haves among its customers, and how a mantra of ‘lifecycle DRM’ keeps BuyDRM’s promise of protecting content from creation to consumption.

MESA: How did BuyDRM first come on the scene, what gaps in the DRM and content security services space has the company sought to fill?

Levy: Since the turn of the century when illegal distribution of digital video content became more prevalent, there’s been a need to ensure that the value of the content is not diluted by unauthorized viewers. BuyDRM was founded by CEO Christopher Levy in 2001 and has since been helping content owners and distributors maximize the monetization of their premium video by providing world-class DRM services and solutions for AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, PPV and live streaming video.

One of the pain points for our customers can be designing their player stack using vendors that are not integrated or have fragmented and/or out-of-date integrations. Our KeyOS ESP Partner Program was designed to eliminate barriers that arise during the development of a deployment strategy by ensuring our integrations are complete and kept up-to-date.

We are fully integrated with the top encoding, server, player and service vendors in the space, which allows our customers to smoothly deploy a robust studio-approved DRM schema.

Additionally, we’ve really focused on the importance of what we call ‘lifecycle DRM,’ protecting content from creation to consumption for B2B and B2C distribution. Without lifecycle DRM, there are literally gaps in the lifecycle of the content as it moves from studio to end user. Each of these gaps are opportunities for the content to be misused, leaked, or otherwise illegally re-distributed resulting in reduced profits.

Our KeyOS Platform offers a wide variety of product lines that address the gaps in the B2B and B2C video workflows using lifecycle DRM.

MESA: How have the DRM needs of media and entertainment changed over the years, from physical disc to broadcast to today’s onslaught of OTT services, especially considering studios increasingly going day-and-date with new theatrical releases?

Levy: Over the past few years, we’ve really seen a swift shift from broadcast to digital viewership forcing broadcasters to fast-track an OTT offering of their own in order to stay relevant. The shift in viewership behavior has presented the challenge of ensuring a smooth and secure playback experience on a wide array of playback devices.

Low-latency streaming and offline support have been two regularly talked about topics when leads or customers discuss their strategies with us. Without low-latency DRM, you cannot have a successful low-latency stream. We’ve taken multiple measures to make sure our customers are not presented with obvious bottlenecks that eat up playback start times reducing the likelihood of frustrated users either turning to customer support more often than you would have wanted or viewer disengagement altogether.

With so many devices on-the-go and the race to make sure viewers can be engaged anywhere anytime, offline secure playback has been at the forefront of expected support features when customers are looking to deploy DRM.

Protecting downloaded assets on-the-go presents some unique challenges and thankfully BuyDRM has done the work needed to offer offline support.

MESA: What makes BuyDRM’s KeyOS Multi-DRM platform unique, what does it offer that makes it a go-to resource for studios, distributors and networks alike?

Levy: I think a lot of it has to do with our proven history of delivering successful deployments for other studios in the past and always having a good understanding of where the market is headed. Our close relationship with our partner vendors and current studio customers allows us to keep our ear to the ground so to speak and be in-tune with the needs of our customers AND the end user.

MESA: BuyDRM’s content protection services run the gamut, and among the standouts is the KeyOS MultiKey Service SaaS platform and MultiKey Server a software licensed solution enabling in-network, on-premise, in-cloud, support for delivering DRM license keys. How has the mandate for a studio-approved DRM strategy when deploying premium content changed what you offer clients?

Levy: A lot of content distributors approach us with the need to deploy a multi-DRM strategy that checks off all of the requirements presented to them in the studio security questionnaire that has to be completed before being granted a license to distribute studio content. We assist our clients in making sure those requirements are met and aid them in them determining whether a hosted service such as our MultKey Service (SaaS) or our MultiKey Server (software) is the right fit for their business model.

In some cases, the client wants to host their own DRM platform in-house and manage it themselves whereas many of our clients still choose to use our hosted service process which is managed entirely by us. The mandate for DRM is something that is going to continue to be a requirement when licensing studio content and something the studio obviously believes in using themselves in order to protect their IP.

MESA: What are some of BuyDRM’s favorite use case examples, where M&E companies have made especially good use of the company’s services?

Levy: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences leveraged the KeyOS platform for DRM support on forensically watermarked streams in the Academy Screening Room during the 2020 voting season to prevent intellectual property theft and unlawful distribution.

Wrapping forensically watermarked video with DRM is now considered best practice when circulating high-value content and our integration efforts have made DRM and watermarking seamless.

BuyDRM continues to power media juggernauts like Rakuten Viki, TubiTV and FuboTV who all rely on our massively scalable multi-DRM service platform, KeyOS. As premium media continues to diversify across AVOD, PVOD and SVOD, DRM usage will continue to expand for mainstream media brands.

MESA: What’s next for BuyDRM, what can we look forward to from the company in the future?

Levy: DRM is part of a holistic 360-degree defense plan. DRM, combined with watermarking like the Academy Awards deployment we did in 2020, will be the new standard. BuyDRM is launching our MultiMark Watermarking Service and Server in the coming quarters as a result.