Crystal-gazing into 2023 Part 2: Streaming challenges - Piracy to password-sharing

Part 1 of this crystal-gazing report took a look at sports streaming, single aggregators, Metaverse, etc. In Part 2, let us take a dive into the key defining trends in 2023 in the OTT sector, and the challenges, such as piracy and credential sharing.

The Indian OTT market promises to rapidly rise at a CAGR of 36% to become a ₹12,000 crore industry by the end of 2023, says Greg Armshaw, Senior Director, Strategy, Brightcove. However, he adds, keeping up with the evolving trends and consumer demands is crucial to stay ahead of the competition. Some of the key video streaming trends, according to Armshaw, to watch in 2023 include:

Also read:

Crystal-gazing into OTT ecosystem in 2023 Part 1: From sports streaming to Metaverse

Adaptive Codec Switching for business growth

As more customers choose to stream across devices, streaming services need to adopt more advanced encoding technologies to optimise the amount of data needed to deliver a quality stream. On the other hand, not all devices being used by an audience can support those advanced encoding technologies, so the streaming platform used needs to be configured to intelligently deliver the best stream for every single device streaming from the service.

Whilst the rapid growth phases of OTT streaming are now over, streaming platforms are now putting greater focus on the operational efficiency of their streaming technology and workflows. As CDN delivery typically takes up a very high percentage of OTT streaming platform costs, streaming companies will need to invest in adaptive codec switching to scale their business without compromising user reach and the quality expected by viewers.

Owning the digital future with first-party data

As well as operational efficiencies, marketing excellence will prove to be a critical factor in OTT streaming service success. Successful media companies will leverage first-party data to refocus on customers’ needs and build long-lasting relationships, as well as open up channels to communicate with customers, whether or not the application is installed on their device.

First-party data provides the opportunity to increase both the brand’s value to customers and vice versa. Streaming businesses will need to build a robust first-party data strategy to extract detailed insights and deliver exceptional personalised customer experiences. Having a strong understanding of the demographics and consumption patterns of your audience helps build a strong proposition for advertisers looking to target at a more granular level and allow platforms to communicate with their customers helping them to enjoy the platform to the fullest extent.

Assessing the quality of experience for the end-user

When providing an entertainment experience delivered over the internet to audiences connected by a vast array of devices and mobile networks, there are likely to be some customer service complaints for one reason or another. Understanding exactly what kind of experience those users are having is important to be able to sympathetically communicate with them and solve their issues.

Delivering an exceptional streaming experience increases customers’ likelihood of returning. Therefore, companies must understand users’ quality of experience (QoE) and when required, intervene to grow and maintain an audience. Streaming platforms are working relentlessly to ensure that the QoE they provide is flawless, along with the tools to enable companies to harness the data and transform it into actionable insights.

In 2023 more TVs will be smart, and there will be more consumption on the TV apps instead of phones, says Manik Bambha, Co-Founder & President at ViewLift. Short-form content and 9:16 will be watched on phones and long-form content and sports will be more watched on TVs. Content companies will now go for profitability in 2023. No more grow and raise more strategy.

The Challenges

As streaming gains prominence as a mainstay of content consumption, the industry stakeholders need to address infrastructure challenges in relation to 5G, CDN, WebRTC support, etc. All these are important for a hassle-free, seamless, and better streaming experience.

Concurrent viewing is a tough tech thing to accomplish and very few providers have the experience to do that, says Manik Bambha. “Even with cloud provider help, the onus is on the operators to hire the right talent or vendors to accomplish their goals. Better bandwidth is a better experience; so now we can start pushing 4K for consumption. WebRTC is more applicable for streaming with betting, the rest is not really needed. Streaming + betting is 1% of the audience,” he adds.

When it comes to 5G, speed is what people think about but how it connects is the main deal, says Rajat Ojha. He stresses on the importance of blockchain in the streaming ecosystem.

“Peer-to-peer networks completely takes away load from one place, right now everyone is targeting their nearest server. That way there is so much load and that will go away. Blockchain will come into the picture here; all information will be available in blocks. Blockchain platforms are different but are all built on leveraging a variety of peer-to-peer solutions that emulate the vision of future 5G networks which will provide you with far more smoother experience,” he explains.

The Piracy Menace

Piracy will continue to be one of the major pain points that the streaming industry as a whole will have to grapple with in 2023. Experts warn that legitimate CDN URLs are likely to be misused by the pirates. And then there are will be other key OTT security vulnerabilities.

How can the industry deal with these tech vulnerabilities?

Simon Brydon, Senior Director of Security Business Development at Synamediapredicts that in 2023 there will be an increase in the consumption of pirate services.

“The pressure on household budgets is intense, as inflation and interest rates soar alongside an energy crisis. These tough economic headwinds have coincided with a plethora of new SVOD subscriptions. With rising monthly bills for legitimate services providing all major sports and entertainment, consumers are cutting their outgoings by paying for pirate services alongside legal services. Our research with pirate consumers, conducted by Ampere Analysis, identified the scale of the problem, with 84% of those surveyed watching sport illegally. For a get-rich-quick criminal enterprise, piracy is a winning business model and requires no technical know-how,” says Brydon.  

The doors to the content on the CDN have been left wide open and the criminals won’t wait for an invitation, says Brydon. According to him, the risk of these OTT security vulnerabilities will really hit home for legitimate broadcasters in 2023 as they increasingly see their own CDN URLs being sold, used and consumed across the pirate ecosystem.

Manik Bambha does not think that legitimate CDN URLs can be misused easily. He feels that streaming piracy can be managed with DRM and watermarking measures.

“Tokenization is widely viewed as a first-level security feature because it only supports the identification and streaming parts of the delivery process. On the other hand, Digital Rights Management is a more robust security measure that also adds OTT content encryption, securing the content being streamed. In addition, it sets rules to determine who can watch the content,” Bambha explains.

While little can be done to prevent screen theft, watermarking is a deterrent that is increasingly becoming an important security feature beyond DRM, he adds. “It is a security tool that tracks down the original consumer of the content. So, when a live concert is being streamed, each viewing session is automatically given a unique watermark. By monitoring illegal live streams of the concert, the OTT provider can identify the viewer sharing it and shut down that session. Further, watermarking can also be used as a forensic tool to prosecute the perpetrator of this theft,” he explains.

With OTT becoming a multi-billion industry, the associated revenue losses from piracy have also skyrocketed, he points out. “Securing OTT content is, therefore, as important as building a creator community and viewer engagement and experience. Using a judicious mix of tools such as tokenization, DRM, and watermarking, OTT platforms have effective ways of securing content and maximising revenue.”

The online streaming industry has been losing significant revenue to organisations stealing and streaming content that is not theirs, points out Greg Armshaw. He points out that content piracy is one of the biggest challenges for any premium content owner, whether they are distributing via legacy channels or through OTT. 

As the content being streamed is the first release, Armshaw adds, then there is a big spotlight on security. So, for streaming content creators there is a need to secure their content from ingestion through to playback.

He further says, “We understand that brand integrity is the lifeblood of an enterprise, and a security breach can significantly impact a brand’s reputation. While free platforms are essential in a blended, holistic marketing strategy, hosting videos on a secure platform enables brands with ultimate control over the viewer experience and avoids any association with unsavoury or off-brand content.”

“I am very privileged to be able to serve on the board of The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), a trade organisation that serves the needs of the video industry across Asia Pacific, and an organisation that Brightcove has proudly been a member of for some years. From an industry perspective, Matthew Cheetham, General Manager of the AVIA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), observes, “There is no doubt that piracy is an issue, and a pressing one, for the TV and broadcast industry in Asia-Pacific. But it's not an insurmountable one. There is clear evidence that consumers and governments are becoming aware of the dangers of piracy, particularly the economic and consumer harm it causes. Pirate sites are increasingly gateways, or honeypots, for criminal operators to target consumers via malware, viruses and ransomware. To counter the problem, protect the industry and consumers. Governments need to put in place laws and regulations that allow rights holders to efficiently and effectively address piracy. Those countries that have the most flexible legislative environments for enforcement of copyright, such as the ability to undertake rolling site blocking under which pirate sites can be quickly identified and blocked, are also those that are best protecting their citizens.”

“Closer to home, at Brightcove, we protect video content throughout its lifecycle from upload to delivery. With Brightcove Playback Restrictions—our most advanced security solution—content security is addressed at every level. Our solutions also offer rigorous security features like IP restriction, URL tokenisation, single sign-on, AES encryption, and more. Our platform offers a broad set of functions to help customers scale and manage their video content securely and reliably, for both multi-tenant as well as segregated environments,” says Greg Armshaw.

Credentials sharing

Netflix, faced with dwindling subscriber growth and competition, is trying to monetise the wide-spread practice of password sharing in 2023. In the days ahead, SVOD services will have to deal with the problem of credentials sharing. Is the issue worth considering for streamers? 

Every operator knows it is happening and costing them money, yet only a few have the foresight to proactively try to fix it, says Simon Brydon. “2023 should be the year that hard-pressed OTT services finally accept that they need to firstly understand the scale of the issue and then come up with a variety of commercial and security strategies to deal with it,” he adds.

 

Greg Armshaw believes that streaming services can make the best use of password-sharing. He says that credential sharing is a “user behaviour” that is relatively easy to minimise with the right technology, but the marketing benefit should not be overlooked. For example, he adds, if your grandparents use the same account as you, there is the opportunity to upsell you to a more expensive package with more simultaneous streams.

“There is also a reasonable chance that as a subscriber you will think twice about cancelling the subscription and cutting off Granny. So, while it is often seen as a challenge for platforms, there are also benefits to having engaged and paying users using an account. When you are a global platform listed on the stock market, the need to show subscriber growth potentially makes the issue of shared credentials a more pressing problem to solve – but how it is solved does not have to be draconian. OTT streaming platforms looking to capitalise on revenues can build elegant user journeys which lead to a better user experience – for the customers and their families – and generate additional stickier revenues in return,” he explains.

Concurring with Greg Armshaw’s views on this, Manik Bambha notes that though the tech is there to solve the problem, businesses don’t want to enforce that because they want more people to affiliate to brand and content and hope that one day they will pay for their own account. “We have seen Netflix's CEO talking about this multiple times,” he adds.

While this continues to remain a challenge, the issue can be resolved by binding an account with device registration, says Lloyd Mathias. “Typically, once a subscription amount is paid, only two/three devices, in particular IP networks, are registered for playback. The unique ID created using IP addresses are allowed to play content. If credentials are shared and any other device requests for playback, it would be prevented as that device is not registered. The bigger issue here though is the consumers who share credentials across geographies, thereby benefiting from price arbitrage,” Mathias concludes.

 

 

 

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