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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.

9 Responses to “Widevine to Offer Flash DRM ‘Holy Grail’”

  1. FlashCTO

    So I talked to Adobe yesterday…Their DRM is just SSL encryption between the FMS and the client with user and device authentication. It seems you must pay $4500 for a FMS (plus HW) and you do not get that many streams.

    They claimed their use of a non rtsp protocol keeps you from listening in…what a joke I can listen in on RTMP very easly

    This is certainly not a DRM…now move to ON2 and Widevine…that one appears to use industry standard DRM methods… It looks robust I saw it in booth #C1855…It is truely end to end and works with any server…Encryption, forensic watremarking and something they call “digital hole protection or DCP”. It seems this DCP protects shared memory and the bus stream recorders and screen recorders…The question remains is Widevine what Abobe is planning for their next DRM release?

    I asked Adobe booth folks that said that is what they thought but they were not sure.

    Widevine and ON2 would not disclose details regarding next efforts only that it works with Adobe Flash players 8, 9 and Flash Lite

  2. FlashCTO

    Of course the question is what will really happen next for Flash DRM??

    I have heard that on Monday Adobe will announce their plan for DRM?

    The question is will this be the third announcement we see in regards to Widevine’s DRM for Flash. Widevine ( announced early this week their solution for FLV…It seems that at least three of the TV networks are using Widevine to secure their Flash Video based online presence and it seems they are soon to lock up the remaining studios.

    It is clear the Microsoft, Apple and even Adobe were asleep at the wheel.

    Widevine made a huge score last week by announcing their solution to be quickly followed by ON2 announcing they are also working with Widevine.

    So will Adobe announce Widevine support next week? It would make sense as NAB kicks off in Vegas. Flash DRM will be the hot topic at the show.

    Will Adobe acquire Widevine?

    Or will Adobe try to compete with Widevine?

    If Adobe decides to “roll their own” I suspect everyone loses…

    DRM was the last thing between Flash Video and premium content. But most large corporations like Microsoft and Apple who attempt DRM fail for several reasons.

    1 – DRM is not their competency. Microsoft has less then five DRM experts. Motorola has only four. It is unclear if Apple has any. Contrast that will a DRM company like Widevine which is totally comprised of DRM expertise.

    2 – DRM is not their focus…will they fix it if compromised?

    3 – DRM is not how Adobe makes money…so you have to figure they will attempt something like locking you into the Flash Media Server to get the DRM. TV Networks are often billed as much as 50 cents per 1 Gigabyte of content streamed from a CDN using FMS. However, with an HTTP server doing progressive downloads or downloads that can be in the 12 cents range for the same content. Having the freedom to use alternatives to FMS saves Internet TV providers millions daily.

    4 – FLV is one of many formats and a DRM that only supports FLV would be too limiting for the consumer.

    These types of restrictions are why Apple and Microsoft DRM are failed technologies.

    Adobe I am glad to hear you will be adding DRM for FLV…please do it right.

  3. Ok, I talked to Widevine and Adobe today …. here is a little more…Over the last two years content owners have repeatedly requested content security be added to the Flash offering. Adobe has been spinning trying to determine how to solve this difficult problem.

    It is my understand that the studios went to Widevine due to their long history and confidence in Widevine’s DRM capabilities. They asked Widevine to add Flash video to it’s product media format support.

    Widevine delivered in less then 6 months what Adobe/MacroMedia has been unable to do for several years.

    Better then that when the major studios went to Widevine they did so knowing that Widevine would build the solution robustly and not restrict consumers or service providers to a technology or infrastructure.

    It costs 50 cents or more to stream a Gigabyte of content on a CDN using the Adobe FMS.

    Using alternative server technologies can reduce that cost to a few cents per GigaByte.

    Look at an NBC or Fox who may stream 50 to 100 Million Gigbyes per month and you can see the cost savings Widevine offers over Adobe proposed DRM.

    It is amazing to think that Adobe would even think to offer yet another DRM ala Microsoft and Apple that locks the entites in the value chain to the Adobe solution set.

    Widevine is the only DRM that understands…DRM can be good if it provides Digital Freedom…NOT another ball and chain.

    Let us hope Adobe is smart enough to pull next weeks launch of their DRM plans…

    Oh and do not forget the key word is “plans”

    No product yet from Adobe.

  4. Monday is the that Adobe will announce their plans for a DRM…Widevine forced their hand.

    Expect that they will announce a system locking you into the Flash Media Server.

    ugh…another restrictive DRM