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Opportunity for Transactional Digital Watermarks in Set-top Boxes Print E-mail

MultiMedia Intelligence Brief February 13, 2008 -- Digital Watermarking and fingerprinting are important content identification technologies that are enabling applications that are positioned to pass US$500 million worldwide by 2012. A key digital watermarking application is transactional watermarking in digital set-top boxes, especially IPTV and Cable boxes.

Transactional watermarks, also referred to as forensic or serialized watermarking, embed information specific to the particular transaction and/or individual into a digital watermark. In a digital set-top box application, the watermark is embedded into the premium video as it is delivered to the consumer. If copyrighted content is subsequently illegally distributed, the transactional watermark enables the infringing content to be tracked back to the source. This not only enables enforcement, but is intended to act as a deterrent to copyright infringement.

Pay TV operators are evaluating implementing transactional watermarking as an added layer of content protection to extend their conditional access and DRM systems. The goal is to convince media companies to provide earlier release windows for high-definition VOD content, creating a new and unique revenue stream that would be difficult to replicate with internet, over the top delivery.

The feasibility of transactional watermarking in set-top boxes has been limited until fairly recently. The processing requirements simply exceeded the horsepower of the set-top box. However, a combination of higher processing power as well as elegant solutions from DWM companies promises to change that.

Among the companies that are positioning transactional watermarking solutions for set-top boxes are Cinea, Philips, Thomson, Verimatrix and Widevine. Leading semiconductor companies targeting the set-top box market are embedding watermarking algorithms in their System-on-Chips (SOCs) as well. The most progressive among the SOC players are STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Broadcom.

MultiMedia Intelligence believes growth of IPTV and Video on Demand will be key drivers of transactional watermarking in set-top boxes. However, the market will not be an over-night success. Timing of transactional deployment will largely depend on when studios become willing to release premium video to pay TV operators in earlier release windows. Look for pilots and early deployment among pay TV operators over the next couple years, with growing commercial set-top box volume by 2012.

This MultiMedia Intelligence brief is based on our new market research report, "Beyond Traditional DRM: Moving to Digital Watermarking & Fingerprinting in Media Monetization." The report provides research, analysis and forecasts for key fingerprinting and digital watermarking applications and technologies, including transactional watermarking in set-top boxes. It also identifies key media and DRM trends that are aligning to drive demand for fingerprinting and watermarking. The report includes forecasts and assessments of the digital media ecosystem, the digital watermarking and fingerprinting value chain, and the key segments and players in each application segment.

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Rick Sizemore

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