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SMNYC 2024: Synamedia's Robin Oakley Talks Stream Security and the Consumer Experience

At Streaming Media NYC 2024, Tim Siglin, Founding Executive Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, interviews Robin Oakley, Senior Director, Edge CDN Solutions, Synamedia. Oakley emphasizes the importance of a proactive approach to security and highlights the company's work with the common access token format, a CTA Wave initiative that aims to create a common CDN token syntax that can be used across multiple CDNs. He also touches on the challenges of protecting content while maintaining a quality experience for the consumer and the increasing sophistication of piracy.

Siglin asks Oakley to discuss his current role at Synamedia and his most recent prior job.

“I'm four months into Synamedia,” Oakley says. “I've been brought in to lead the Edge CDN product, which is all about putting CDN at the edge as close to the view as possible. Prior to that, I spent seven years at DAZN, a sports streaming company where I was running the distribution engineering team, streaming some of the biggest sports events in some of the biggest countries around the world.”

Synamedia’s approach to securing streams

Siglin asks Oakley to talk about Synamedia’s approach to securing streams.

Oakley says a common issue with CDNs is that they all want to implement security measures differently. “So part of the work that Synamedia has been doing has been with the common access token format, which is a CTA Wave initiative,” he says. “A lot of the problem is, if you're in a multi-CDN environment, you've got to work through your biggest links, and your weak link may be left to last, and it might still be a vulnerability. So, really, everything's got to be secure without it being secure. So we like to work with standards, and we like to innovate.” He also notes that pirating has gotten increasingly sophisticated. “I think it's highlighting the need for CDN providers and CDN vendors like ourselves to lean in more to the problem and bring more to the party.”

Siglin asks, “So, the interoperability model around this common access, is it sort of a lowest common denominator interoperability, or is it a fairly robust interoperability?”

“We'd obviously want to make it a fairly robust interoperability,” Oakley says. “So include all the key things broadcasters want from their token exploration -- geography, kill time, things like that. And develop it further because you may have a ticket to the game, and you may give it to me, but that's really breaking your rights, the ticket of the game. So how do you know you are who you are and proving it?”

Protecting content while maintaining a quality consumer experience

“So how do we protect the content and the quality of experience for the consumer?” Siglin asks.

Oakley says this is crucial since there is a risk of the viewer feeling ostracized or alienated by too much security. “Let's say you start introducing two-factor authorization every time you want to sign onto something,” he says. “That could just have the opposite effect of driving your viewers to piracy. And I've worked in distribution all my career and my philosophy is that people know you've done it right if you've not done anything at all. So you need to make these measures quick and unobtrusive. The token is a good example of that, where we're using a long-lived token on the URL and are now implementing that. Broadcasters are starting to do invisible watermarking. But you've got to make that quick and obtrusive as well. And you're seeing pirates getting more and more sophisticated, even with invisible watermarking, with four, five, or six pirates working together to share part of the video delivery, attempting to disrupt the token sequence. So it's trying to do that and the processing power that's required to do that quickly, securing it without kicking a false positive or kicking a viewer out. So you've got to be careful.”

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