Widevine to Offer Flash DRM ‘Holy Grail’

Widevine, a multiplatform digital rights management provider, will announce Tuesday it has added Flash DRM to its library. The Seattle-based company, which touts its independence from content services, devices, operating systems, and video formats as compared to the competition, is looking to widen its domain from telco TV to the open web.

Widevine hopes it can attract content owners who wish to sell their wares directly, rather than going through a middleman like iTunes. CEO Brian Baker said his company has already signed three major television broadcasters to distribute shows through their own sites, all projects that are currently in internal testing and expected to become live to the public “in the next month or two.”

“Flash DRM has kind of become a holy grail,” said Rich Internet Applications blogger Ryan Stewart in an IM chat Monday. Stewart said he was doubtful a third party could pull off Flash DRM without requiring a bulky and hackable download, which would effectively negate the advantage of Flash already being installed on nearly every computer today.

Such issues have stalled Adobe from offering Flash DRM on its own, according to Stewart. Still, despite his doubts, he said he was excited to learn more about Widevine’s offering.

Nine-year-old Widevine boasts 2.5 million installed clients in its existing domain of telco, cable, and satellite companies. It is profitable off its existing business and starting to think about going public, according to Baker.

Baker said he likes to think of the company as “the Switzerland of DRM,” supporting “pretty much all known devices.”

But no matter how compatible and independent it might be, isn’t Widevine’s fundamental task providing tools to lock up content? “We’re the less evil of the options,” Baker contended. He proposed the availability of his tools might prompt content owners to feel comfortable providing content on their own terms.

And if along the way that provokes content owners to start selling content that’s not available elsewhere, consumers might not be too upset about the inconvenience of another download.

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