The most vexing issue in networked digital television has been the reluctance of content owners to allow their premium digital content--movies and television channels like HBO--to be transferred from one device to another. Content owners are understandably afraid that any mechanism to move high-definition digital video around the house--for example, from a PC to a flat-screen TV--opens the door for pirating and redistributing the content without paying the owner.
A "conditional access" (CA) security mechanism protects the premium content delivered to digital video set top boxes supplied by cable, satellite and IPTV providers. A "digital rights management" (DRM) mechanism known as Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) protects the HDMI digital connections between the set top boxes and digital TVs. The new link protection guidelines from DLNA extend DTCP to the networking links in the home.
But some content owners want a stronger protection mechanism. At CES, a friend from Broadcom pointed us to SVP, an open technology specification for protecting digital video content. SVP is a hardware mechanism; applying the SVP specification to any standard video processor turns it into an SVP-compliant video processor that can protect digital content end-to-end.
The SVP Alliance is promoting the SVP standard and developing interoperability with other DRM and content protection solutions; as of September 2006 the organization had 35 members. Broadcom, Conexant, Humax, Pace, Samsung and Thomson are official licensees of SVP technology. Chip makers such as Broadcom and STMicroelectronics have already announced that they will be producing SVP-compliant chips in volume; Pace and Samsung have announced SVP-compliant set top boxes.
Early in 2007, the SVP alliance issued a technical note providing guidelines for mapping SVP onto UPnP in a DLNA-compliant manner for DLNA-compliant devices. This addresses the interoperability of content protection systems with UPnP, and would complement the link protection guidelines which DLNA has adopted. Several key DLNA member companies are also members of the SVP Alliance.
Our take away from all this is that progress is being made on the issue of strong content protection, a prerequisite for content companies to make their media products more broadly available.