Rory O’Connor, Vice President of Services at Irdeto, discusses the challenges of meeting consumer demand for greater choice, as well as the trends we see 2017 and his views on the strategies needed to overcome them.
Cable Congress: We have seen digital platforms performing well, and can expect this to continue in 2017. Is this also your view?
Rory O’Connor: The good news is the growth of choice for consumers has led to an increase in content creation and consumption. The challenge is that consumers are increasingly opting for piracy, as our latest survey data shows. We have found more than 2.7 million e-commerce listings offering illicit streaming devices on a single day and the top 100 pirate IPTV supplier sites generate more than 16 million visits per month.
CC: The seemingly unstoppable success of digital platforms stems from a wide variety of factors. What do you think is behind the continued rise?
RoC: The rise of digital media platforms in many ways is an extension of the breakdown of the analogue world. The growth of today’s digital platforms enables consumers to access and consume content in much more convenient and personal fashion.
Along with the wide choice of content which has invariably led to this rise, the ability for consumers to watch whatever, whenever has also lead to a growth in viewing figures. A great example of this is the Horizon Go application which enables you to watch your favourite channels and shows securely on-the-go.
There is a threat lurking in the shadows, though, as consumers have now come to expect more choice, at lower costs, pirated services provide unified content experiences, a solution that none of the current platforms offer. Digital Platforms have to be available to serve this growing demand; otherwise consumers will switch providers or even worse, pirate the content.
To get the very best content such as premier live sports and early release movies will require a full 360-degree security approach including digital rights management, watermarking and anti-piracy services
CC: Many say that we can expect security to remain a cornerstone of driving forward digital content platforms over the course of next year. How is Irdeto preparing for this wider trend?
RoC: To get the very best content such as premier live sports and early release movies will require a full 360-degree security approach including digital rights management, watermarking and anti-piracy services. In a connected world it is important that you have deploy anti-piracy services alongside technology to ensure continued access to the rights for premium content.
We have seen this year the withdrawal of football rights in Europe from those who were unable to secure this premium content on their digital platform. It is important to take a holistic view of security and augment the technology with effective detection and global enforcement capabilities.
CC: Online piracy must be a never ending battle in today’s ever digitalised world. Do you think that this is a fight which will ever be won?
RoC: Humanity has fought against copyright piracy since the invention of printing press so it's an ongoing battle. However, if we do not enforce our copyright laws and ensure the livelihood of those who work to create compelling content, we will live in a much darker time.
As an industry, we are responsible for protecting the content which we distribute to our paying customers. We owe it to them and the creators to ensure that our digital platforms are as secure as possible and that we continue to ensure that content creation and distribution is valued appropriately.
CC: Online piracy is a truly global phenomenon. How important is it, do you think, to have regulation or a regulatory approach which reflects this?
RoC: Piracy is a failing of regulation and education. We are seeing in some countries that regulation is slowly catching up with the realities of the global piracy networks, with blocking orders and increased ISP compliance, but overall there is still a long way to go. The 2017-2019 US Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement is a step in the right direction from a policy perspective. Now we have to educate our customers that it is wrong to download a movie or illegally stream a football match. Along with education, we have to provide a legal affordable choice that enables them to do the right thing.
CC: Cable Congress will take place in Brussels this year, the heart of the European Union. Do you have any advice or suggestions for engaging with policy makers in Brussels you could share?
RoC: Europe has traditionally been at the forefront of copyright legislation with previous initiatives such as the Conditional Access directive, however, I do think we need to protect our creative industries from global exploitation over the Internet. For that reason, I would like to see a more robust up to date legal framework that would enable us to successfully prosecute the increasingly sophisticated cross-border pirate networks who profit from other people’s creativity. In the US a third of people admit to watching pirated content, however, in some parts of Europe, it is much higher. I think we can learn from this the importance of legislation and education. We have work to do here.
CC: Security issues need to be considered at all points along the value chain – especially where managed devices are concerned. How do the solutions for different types of user need to vary?
RoC: With the increasing of viewing outside the home it is very important that you choose industry standard solutions that work on all platforms to broaden the choice of your consumers and reduce the temptation of piracy. To that end, a multi-DRM strategy is vital to ensure maximum coverage and the best battery performance.
In the home, the managed device needs to support hardware encryption technologies and watermarking to ensure that early release 4K content can be shown on the TV. The home will become the cinema of the future with larger screens, higher quality and collapsing release windows. It is important that operators can offer infrastructure to enable this and robust MovieLabs compliant security is key to this.
CC: Taking a wider perspective, are you optimistic about the future landscape for companies like Irdeto?
RoC: Irdeto’s software security protects over five billion devices today and our ambition is to be on every device in and outside your home. We are making good progress protecting everything from cars to payment wallets.
The security market is booming and we believe we have a central role to play in this with our unique Cloakware software technology. As digital platforms develop beyond media we believe that we are uniquely positioned to protect people from the increasing threats of hacking, piracy and theft.
CC: To finish, and this may be unfair given how many surprises we have seen over the course of 2016, do you want to make any predictions about what we can expect from the industry at large over the course of this year?
RoC: 2016 has shown the importance of security, following the hacking scandals in the United States and elsewhere. I hope that the increased awareness of the damage hacking can cause will lead to more investment in security, not only in technology but also in services to ensure that we all remain secure.
We have found hundreds of thousands of compromised cable user accounts for accessing email, video and billing information. So please start today by changing your passwords and using a VPN on the open WiFi at the congress! Have a great and secure cable congress and please do not be tempted by piracy as you may get a lot more than illegal content on your device.
Rory O’Connor is Vice President of Services at Irdeto and in addition to serving on Irdeto’s leadership team, he is responsible for leading the company’s revenue assurance strategy and anti-piracy efforts on a global level. Rory has been with Irdeto since 2004 and has held the positions of VP of Engineering, Director of Mobile Products and Director of Product Management.