In Frost & Sullivan’s recently published analysis of the
content protection market, we found broad prevalence of
what we term the “fallacy of free.” This is the notion that
royalty-free DRM clients translate into free secure playback.
This could not be farther from the truth. Secure multi-platform players consistent of far more than just the DRM
core, and costs for robust, reliable and renewable protection
are incurred one way or another. For low-cost services seeking
checkbox DRM protection, economic considerations favor the
use of delivery to the browser using the default native DRM.
However, for premium services, the cost equation is quite
different—services should look beyond upfront development
costs towards a holistic analysis spanning customer retention,
long-term security, and technological flexibility. This tips the
balance in favor of player apps, which may in turn leverage
2) Discovery & Differentiation
Traditionally, browser-based content has been easier
to discover and access than app-based content. This was
particularly true, for example, on personal computers,
where users typically default to the search engine for
content discovery and are quite unlikely to independently
discover, download, and install a software application
to stream a content title. As the role of the PC fades and
streaming devices such as the Roku take a more central role,
discoverability between browser-based sites and apps is
If a service is differentiating primarily on lower cost and
ease of discoverability, then browser-based delivery is a viable
choice. Similarly, if content library is commoditized in nature
and access to content relies on checkbox protection, then
browser-based access will work just fine.
In contrast, premium services seeking to differentiate on
quality of experience will need to invest in apps regardless.
3) Cross-platform consistency
Cross-platform consistency is a continuous and growing
headache for VSOs. Services face fragmentation in many
dimensions: device feature sets, multi-DRM infrastructure
feature sets, encryption schemes, streaming protocols and
DRM client versions are only a few of these factors. Despite
these challenges, cross-drive service homogeneity is critical
for VSOs seeking to compete successfully against OT T
juggernauts like Netflix. Apps are the new middleware.
When developed and maintained well, they allow a
managed quality experience to be consistently delivered
across all deployed unmanaged devices. This deployed
device landscape includes older device models still in use
as well as newly sold devices.
The deployed device ecosystem is chaotic, with a mixture
of old and new OS versions, chipsets of varying capabilities,
and various versions and security levels of DRM clients. The
security of a given DRM solution tends to be perceived in
terms of claims supported by the most recent and capable
hardware in the market.
However, the level of security a VSO actually receives is
governed by the past three or more years’ worth of devices
deployed worldwide. Accordingly, if older systems are not
being proactively patched or upgraded by the DRM vendor,
then the VSO is faced with an ecosystem of leaky systems with
no ability to fix them.