Why is forensic watermarking a lifesaver for the video entertainment industry?

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Have you ever noticed your video content redistributed illegitimately all over the Internet? This is a common issue frequently encountered by content owners, copyright holders and service providers in the video entertainment industry.

The most recent statistics indicate that over 230 billion views of pirated video content are recorded annually. Consider the amount of revenue that these 230 billion views have cost this industry every year.

To put an end to this problem, protective measures need to be taken and a useful one among them is forensic watermarking. This article will discuss which type of video content and which users will benefit the most from this technology.

What is forensic watermarking?

Forensic watermarking, commonly referred to as digital watermarking, is the practice of covertly incorporating an unnoticeable mark into a piece of content, such as video, audio or image. In the video entertainment industry, forensic watermarking has become an integral part of the anti-piracy battle. With the help of this technology, content owners, operators and service providers can secure their digital assets more efficiently, by not only preventing piracy from happening, but also swiftly tracking down illicit use and identifying the involved individuals or parties.

The astounding growth of the video entertainment industry has recently been a driving force behind the use of forensic watermarking. Major studios and Over-The-Top (OTT) streaming services constantly upgrade their content with ever-increasing video quality such as 4K/UHD and HDR. Meanwhile pay-TV operators try to regain their position by acquiring expensive and exclusive redistribution rights for video content, typically live sports events. This fierce competition inadvertently turns the video entertainment market into a lucrative target for pirates.

Why is forensic watermarking needed in the modern entertainment world?

Obtaining high-quality video footage used to be a luxury outside of the broadcast ecosystem, but nowadays, that is no longer the case. Netflix was at the forefront of the Ultra High Definition (UHD) era starting with their 4K version of the House of Cards series in April 2014. Since then, OTT has seen an increase in the popularity of UHD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. Netflix began by increasing the streaming time of 4K content with HDR to 100 hours in 2016 and has kept offering more over the years. Other service providers have quickly caught on to the trend, making UHD/HDR the standard for any high-profile projects on their platforms.

The growing popularity of UHD and HDR video services, however, has intensified the issue of video piracy. While pay-TV piracy has been restricted to a particular area within the satellite's coverage, streaming related piracy allows for lightning-fast global redistribution of stolen content from one location. Pirates and other users can therefore easily access OTT’s massive treasure trove of high-profile video content without paying for subscriptions.

The issue of video piracy affects OTT service providers in many ways with revenue loss being number one, closely followed by breach of contract with both content owners and digital rights holders. As a result, content security is essential for OTT providers, enabling them to continuously scan the Internet, detecting pirated content and acting accordingly. Using forensic watermarking is a particularly efficient way to identify and take swift action against unauthorized content redistribution, as well as alert consumers about watching pirated content.

Is forensic watermarking for video content just a tick-box?

Even though many operators and service providers only see the use of watermarking as a means of adhering to the demands of content owners, it also plays a crucial part in protection of revenue and audiences experiences. The video entertainment industry therefore needs to seriously rethink the role of watermarking as a protective solution to safeguard their most valuable digital assets.

Additionally, watermarking can serve as a springboard for operators and service providers to access a wider range of anti-piracy options.

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