Microsoft Launches PlayReady Encrypted Live Streaming

Azure Media Services customers can now protect live streams with Microsoft's PlayReady encryption.


Microsoft has flipped the switch on a new digital rights management (DRM) option for live video streams on the company's cloud streaming solution, Azure Media Services.

Joining existing support for AES dynamic encryption is PlayReady encryption, announced Mingfei Yan, program manager for Microsoft Azure Media Services. "With Azure Media Services, our supported streaming protocols, such as [HTTP]-live-streaming (HLS), Smooth Streaming and MPEG-DASH, you could configure either AES or PlayReady encryption and deliver the encrypted live stream," she said in a Dec. 22 Azure Blog post.

Azure Media Services is used by broadcasters and businesses to transcode and deliver video streams to PCs, mobile devices and set-top media boxes. NBC tapped the cloud streaming platform to help audiences catch up with video coverage of this year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Launched in early 2013, Azure Media Services is Microsoft's stab at the growing market for video streaming solutions.

"With today's release, you now have everything you need to quickly build great, extremely scalable, end-to-end media solutions for streaming on-demand video to consumers on any device," said then Corporate Vice President for Windows Azure Scott Guthrie in a statement. "For example, you can easily build a media service for delivering training videos to employees in your company, stream video content for your Website or build a premium video-on-demand service like Hulu or Netflix."

Now, media companies have another option for securely delivering video content to devices.

"Microsoft PlayReady is an extensive, studio approved encryption technology that protects your content from piracy, and it is supported on a wide range of the most popular devices today," said Yan. "Now, you can use PlayReady to protect both Video-on-demand and live streams."

Configuring PlayReady-protected live streams is essentially a three-step process, explained Yan. "Set a content key, key authorization policy and content delivery policy on the asset you want encrypted."

A token authentication option is available for key authorization, wherein license-seeking clients "must first supply a valid token," she noted. "If you configured token authentication, [the] token is sent through Custom Data API, which is available on all PlayReady SDKs." During this process, content providers can set the parameters of the PlayReady license template to enable limited-time viewing and other restrictions.

One key aspect of PlayReady-protected streaming is multiplatform support. "A wide range of devices and platforms support PlayReady encrypted live stream playback, such as Silverlight player, Client SDK for iOS and Android," revealed Yan. Customers can also "mix and match streaming protocol and encryption methods," she added. "For instance you could produce AES encrypted HLS stream and PlayReady encrypted DASH stream."

PlayReady has been around awhile, and was part of Microsoft's bid to unseat Adobe Flash with Silverlight.

"Developed by Microsoft, PlayReady is the result of over 14 years and over $2 billion in R&D," according to a company whitepaper on the technology. "Thanks to a full IP patent portfolio, proven robustness, and backing by a dedicated breach response team, PlayReady has become the leading DRM system for protecting media content," Microsoft claims.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...