Playready 4 will bring closure to the DASH dream: one single OTT format to rule them all

Microsoft closed the loop

Microsoft announced the upcoming Playready 4 DRM format prior to the 2017 IBC. As often on what regards to Playready, details are few and far between, except for a small but extremely important detail: support for AES-CBC.

What this means is that sometime in the future, any OTT CDN may only need to support one single copy of each content. No more on-the-fly repacking, no more just-in-time encryption (read bellow* for further details on this), you just maintain and cache one single copy of each content. As compared with today, it means that storage requirements decrease by half, and cache hit rate automatically doubles.

The ABR format evolution from the CDN perspective. Adding DASH didn’t result on any gain, but a decrease on efficiency and increase on storage needs. With Playready 4 everything comes into place: storage is kept to the bare minimum.

From an OTT operator perspective, this means less cost on the CDN and network pipes.

Now, this will not happen tomorrow, as Playready 4 won’t actually be available for months, compatible devices are not expected before end 2018, and then, until all devices are ported from Playready 2.x to Playready 4 both copies of the same content are necessary. Actually, a significant portion of Playready 2.x devices won’t ever support Playready 3, not to mention Playready 4, to these gains won’t happen before the end of the decade, but it does shows light at the end of the very dark OTT format war.

(*) Although real time repackaging won’t ever be needed, just-in-time may still be required, in order to support encryption key rotation as required by the content providers, but it will only happen on the centralised content storage. This still means that striate requirement will decrease and cache hit rate will double, only CPU requirement on the centralised storage may be slightly higher, but not significant so.

Also published on Medium.