NDS Aims At A Moving Target

Viewers probably never think about it. But when they watch cable, peek at online samples of network hits or buy in to video- on-demand offerings, they are accessing material that belongs to a variety of creators. And those content providers don't want to give it away.

Protecting the massive amounts of content being delivered by TV and the Internet is a top-of-mind issue with service providers, with conditional access (CA) and digital rights management (DRM) being two of the most effective ways to protect service and content. What makes that even trickier are the technological leaps that have created even more platforms on which content can be delivered.

Protecting these valuable assets now requires serious attention and has created an entire industry, which is now full throttle into finding ways to secure and protect the content and services flooding the three-screen landscape of TV, Internet and phone. It has also sparked controversy about just how it should be done.

Dov Rubin, VP/general manager of NDS Americas, a leading provider of digital security, discussed the wide world of content protection in a Q&A with Craig Kuhl. NDS worldwide reaches into 66.6 million homes with protection technology, safeguarding what it estimates at $33 billion in broadcast revenue.

Conditional access and digital rights management are generating increased interest among content service providers, such as cable, broadcast TV and the Internet. Give us a snapshot of these emerging technologies.

Most people equate conditional access and digital rights management, but there's lots of ambiguity. The definition of CA is the traditional security product protecting the broadcaster's service or program packages, ensuring that viewers pay only for what they watch and watch only what they pay for.

But viewers now want content ported onto media players, discs and other devices, so how do we move content around the home, protect content and still determine how it's charged for? That's where DRM comes in and how it gets implemented. In short, CA is about service protection while DRM is about content protection.

Today, there are lots of “wannabes” in this marketplace that rely on software-only solutions, and when [the solutions are] breached, they believe, they can simply download a new secure version. This is simply not correct.

So, what challenges does that present to CA and DRM providers? And specifically to NDS?

Our challenge is to create long-term security for content owners, because consumer devices are coming out faster than we can keep up with.

For example, putting DRM and content protection inside chips, which we see happening within two or three years, can capture that ability. We don't want solutions that can quickly be compromised, which in turn would permit piracy to run rampant.

The open Internet is also a new challenge for which NDS is deploying solutions.

File sharing is emerging as a solution within the CA and DRM spaces. How does that stand?

It's in the lab.

There are lots of DVRs out there, and many are, or will be, connected to the Internet.

We wanted to develop a mechanism to create services that combine bits and pieces of authorized content in a secured network to share with other DVRs, with security and authorization. We don't have any customers yet, but it's a peek into the future.

And, we have just introduced small, unobtrusive mechanisms for content protection to freely and transparently move content to and from personal computers as well as an assortment of handheld devices. More than 40% of our personnel at NDS are dedicated to R&D, so we're experimenting with new ideas and concepts.

What about Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) and mobile TV. How do they fit into the CA and DRM spaces?

IPTV is relatively small right now. But, honestly, we are technology providers and really don't know if the U.S. telcos are going to take away market share in video from cable and satellite providers. Probably the best scenario is a partnership between satellite and the telcos.