Broadcom Seeking to Address Pay-TV Piracy with GNSS-Enabled Chipset
[Via Satellite 12-23-2014] Broadcom, a semi-conductor manufacturer for wired and wireless communications has combined a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver with a satellite Outdoor Unit (ODU), enabling pay-TV operators to geo-lock content to subscribers. The company hopes the new product, which took roughly a year to complete, will reduce the theft of premium video content.
The new solution combines the Broadcom BCM4551 satellite chipset with the BCM4771 GNSS chip in the Low-Noise Block (LNB) of a satellite dish. The technology, when joined with a Set-Top Box (STB), enables operators to locate and confirm the intended destination of premium content.
“The impetus for this has come from set-top box companies and operators themselves, who are interested in tracking the location of their equipment: the set-top box itself. This kind of tracking ability can prevent content from being redistributed to non-subscribers. If there is somebody that has acquired a set-top box, the operator wants to know that it is being installed in a particular location for a paying subscriber, and that operator wants to make sure that that equipment is then not moved to another spot and then reused by somebody who is not a subscriber,” Prasan Pai, director of marketing at Broadcom told Via Satellite.
Pay-TV is a mainstay of the global satellite industry, with growth coming especially from emerging markets. Worldwide, the number of pay-TV subscriptions is expected to crest 1 billion by 2019, continuing to climb despite competition from Over-The-Top (OTT) content and other video services. Mature markets, however, are finding more challenges in pay-TV, and content theft is not helping.
“Generally, piracy models have shifted from control word sharing to redistribution of content,” Sam Rosen, practice director at ABI Research told Via Satellite. “Premium shows and sporting events are regularly distributed with hundreds of streams available; I’ve seen estimates that for major events in some regions as many as 15 percent of the viewers are watching on pirated streams — similar numbers would apply to major TV shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’ with file sharing.”
According to Pai, geo-locking can ensure content is delivered to the intended recipient, which can help curb nonsubscriber access to paid video content. The GNSS-enabled satellite ODU functions with the United States Global Positioning System and Russia’s Glonass constellations. Pai said Broadcom has been watching China’s BeiDou and Europe’s Galileo, but noted that BeiDou is mostly over Asia and Galileo currently has only a few operational satellites (one of which was recently restored). The worldwide coverage of GPS and Glonass are sufficient to provide the location accuracy needed by operators, he said. Broadcom released a GNSS hub for smartphones that supports Galileo earlier this month.
The new GNSS-enabled ODU has the potential to support the delivery of location-based content depending on a viewer’s location. Applications include social media, specifically televised events and targeted advertising. Rosen said GNSS-linked devices could spur location-specific pay-TV opportunities.
“We have seen a few applications of GPS enabled satellite dishes, such as in Brazil where the national Globo system locks down content to specific regions. We’ve been watching with interest the development of the European Common Market and its impact on Pay-TV. Under EU law, consumers can freely import and export goods – which generally includes video content (i.e. a satellite system). At the same time, content rights, especially for large sporting contracts, are generally at a country-level. We see the development of this market dynamic as requiring significant new technology, such as GPS-enabled satellite, over the next few years,” he said.
Both the BCM4551 and BCM4771 are in volume production today. According to Broadcom, the BCM4771 conducts faster signal searches than its predecessors. The BCM4551 enables the stacking of 24 Second Generation Digital-Video-Broadcasting Satellite (DVB-S2) channels on a single coaxial cable. Rosen said dense channel stacking solutions respond to a number of market dynamics, including the increasing number of screens (tablets and smartphones consuming live TV) and readiness for 4K Ultra-HD signaling, which could consume multiple channels of bandwidth.