Producing and protecting exclusive content is crucial to securing future revenues, says John Ward, Executive Vice-President Americas, Friend MTS

What are the main challenges facing those tasked with creating and delivering content?

In today’s world, entertainment options are seemingly infinite. Businesses that create and deliver high-value content compete for eyeballs not just with each other but with myriad other options — think how much time can be spent scrolling on social media, for instance.


John Ward, Friend MTS

So the main problem that these companies face is maintaining viewers’ engagement. With OTT subscriptions that are as easy to pick up as to shed in the next review of a household’s entertainment spend, the churn means once a viewer stops being engaged, they drop out. Netflix, for example, demonstrated how crucial engagement is for them by cancelling accounts of paying inactive users.

Exclusive content – whether movies, other entertainment or sports – helps service providers and D2C content owners keep the levels of engagement with the service high. The active viewer/user base for these services means not just present revenue; it also represents future monetisation streams in the era of increasingly simple one-click online purchases.

Therefore, ensuring the integrity of exclusive content and protecting it from illegal redistribution today means preserving your viewers’ engagement and, ultimately, securing your future revenues.

How is your company helping content owners and creators to overcome their challenges?

At Friend MTS we are good at just that ー ensuring that your exclusive content doesn’t pop up somewhere else on the web, [eg] on regional and global social media platforms, and that it is not spreading across pirate redistribution networks. Traditionally, content protection was something that mainly engineers dealt with on top of other technical requirements, such as delivering a high-quality viewer experience and ensuring content reliably reaches viewers amid device fragmentation. It’s easy to guess that adding new features that boost quality of experience (or just ensure expectations are met!) could take precedence over enhancing content security.

Today with a recent all-time high of $220.2 billion spent on producing and licensing content, content creators and distributors have equal stakes in the content protection arena. It does take a village to fight content theft. A concentrated and focused content protection plan from the beginning of content creation through the entire distribution chain is required to save the value proposition. In terms of technology, it’s a multi-component undertaking, with a combination of DRM, watermarking, fingerprinting and other solutions.

What impact has the last few years had on the M&E industry?

Well, the elephant in the room is the Covid pandemic that took the already existing trends to a whole new level and accelerated digital adoption by as much as a few years for the M&E industry. The world is forever changed and there will be no return to ‘normal’. Customers will continue to consume premium content across many devices anytime and anywhere. It truly is the golden age of content creation and content delivery.

In addition to the rapid proliferation of OTT services, and the continuing trend of content owners going directly to consumers, live events such as comedy shows, theatre productions, music and film festivals have reached new audiences through streaming. While big brands can maximise their reach, more niche content owners and providers can now enjoy new revenue streams – often on a global scale. Both can safely navigate (for some totally unchartered) digital delivery waters using such content protection anti-piracy solutions as forensic watermarking and extensive fingerprint augmented monitoring.

What are the main products and services that you have launched this year?

This year we have launched the fourth generation of our advanced subscriber watermarking ASiD that now includes a new ASiD solution called Edge-switched. This server-side A/B variant ASiD has joined our family of forensic watermarking solutions along with further enhanced ASiD Embedded and ASiD OTT Client-composited solutions. All three variants of ASiD are fully compliant with the MovieLabs and CableLabs security specifications, and provide unbeatable protection for linear, live and VOD content.

In conjunction with our highly-automated Global Monitoring Platform that captures and analyses 8 months’ worth of video every day, ASiD watermarking allows us to pinpoint subscription accounts used for unauthorised redistribution of high-value content. ASiD effectively disrupts piracy regardless of the delivery method ー broadcast, managed or unmanaged OTT.

These are new additions to a portfolio that we have been developing and evolving now for twenty years, and we’re extremely proud of that history. Friend MTS continues to be trusted by some of the biggest names in live and on-demand sports, movies and entertainment to protect their content, brands and revenue streams.

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