Increase costs or push iOS users away: how dual on-the-fly encryption solves this dilemma

March 1, 2023

The rapidly evolving IPTV/OTT and streaming market presents a significant challenge to operators, who must ensure seamless and high-quality content playback across a range of end-user devices. This requires a delicate balance between investing in the content storage system to meet demands, and avoiding driving away users who may seek alternative options. In this dynamic and competitive landscape, companies must make a difficult choice between incurring increased costs, or risking losing a portion of their user base.

Aware of the challenge

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a vital aspect of video content consumption. It enforces security measures to control the usage of video content through encryption and licensing agreements.

The most commonly used combination of streaming technology and DRM is MPEG-DASH and Google Widevine DRM. Most end-user devices work with this bundle seamlessly, but Apple products don't. iOS devices suffer from a number of playback issues because Apple does not support this widespread bundle. One of these problems is the long startup of streams’ playback. And although it is not critical when playing movies, when switching TV channels, such a problem can make the subscriber completely refuse to watch TV on iOS devices. Incompatibility with some standard MPEG-DASH stream types can also cause problems for the operator's technical staff and subscribers.

This dilemma presents three potential paths for operators. The first is to avoid the solution, inciting a portion of their iOS user base to seek out offerings from competitors. 

The second option is to adopt Google’s solution, which relies on the Shaka player integrated into the operator’s app. However, this particular DRM system is beset by issues with indefinite fix dates.

The third option is to follow Apple’s suggestion and use the HLS and FairPlay bundle. However this means operators have to keep two separate versions of content: one – for bundle HLS and Apple FairPlay, another – for MPEG-DASH and Google Widevine, because they use different ways to encrypt. This makes storing content more expensive.

The operator is faced with a difficult decision: either spend more money to store their content or risk losing a large number of iOS users via unstable playback.

More efficient option

There is a more effective solution — performing on-the-fly re-encryption on a dedicated server. Initially, the content is encrypted for sending using the common MPEG-DASH and Google Widevine bundle. But when an iOS device requests it, the content is re-encrypted on-the-fly for streaming using the HLS and FairPlay bundle.

With this solution operators can save on extra storage costs and ensure their users enjoy a seamless and high-quality content playback experience. For example, if you need to adapt 50 TV channels for iOS subscribers, an installation with commonly used server processors will save you more than 23TB* of disk space and significantly in costs!

*Calculated for the 1-week TSTV service for 50 channels with adaptive bitrate: HD (4.5 Mbps) + SD (2 Mbps).