AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

Protecting Over-the-Top Streaming with Watermarking and Disruption from Synamedia and AWS

By Satheesh Kumar, Head of Solutions Consultants, APAC and LATAM – Synamedia
By Jonathan Solomon, Partner Solutions Architect, Telecom Media & TV – AWS
By Nitin Jain, Manager, Elemental SSA India – AWS
By Maheshwaran G, Specialist Solutions Architect – AWS

According to a PwC report (Global Media and Entertainment Outlook 2020-2024), India is setting the pace in the over-the-top (OTT) market.

By 2024, India is expected to be the world’s sixth largest OTT market with a 28.6 percent growth rate over the next four years, reaching revenues of US$2.9 billion.

Clearly, this growth trend is not unique to any region. COVID-19 lockdowns have seen television viewing durations skyrocket all over the world, with viewing times in some areas surging from two to five hours per day.

But there are other drivers, too. The increase in availability of faster internet (4G and 5G technologies), the ever-growing penetration of mobile devices, and the rise in demand for streaming content directly to consumers over the internet have also contributed to growth in the OTT market.

To be clear, the OTT market is made up of owners, distributors, and viewers of media (video) content delivered “on top” of existing networks; broadband or mobile, for example. Unlike traditional broadcast, cable, or direct to home (DTH) delivery, however, each OTT viewer receives their own stream.

Naturally, the OTT opportunity also brings it’s challenges; not least in the area of video piracy.

Synamedia is an AWS ISV Partner and leader in video content protection and distribution for over 30 years, starting with satellite-based distribution access control, and is trusted by more than 200 service providers worldwide.

As customers have moved to OTT distribution, content protection now includes protecting against pirated streams.

In this post, we review the security challenges that accompany the OTT live video opportunity and describe how, through Synamedia’s partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), organizations can combine Synamedia’s Headend Watermaking (HE WM) capability with its Streaming Piracy Disruption solution to curtail piracy.

Planning for Protection

The increase in demand for streaming video services creates opportunities for OTT service providers to expand their existing platform with additional content offerings, and deliver additional revenue-generating options.

With all of these factors coming into play, what does this mean if you are an OTT content provider looking to succeed in what has clearly become a crowded field?

As in any competitive market, you’ll need to accelerate your roll-out plans, combining the right strategy with the best technology to reduce time-to-market. Putting the right foundations in place now can help you overcome the inevitable challenges you’ll face as you scale.

Challenges Facing OTT Service Providers

Scalability and ease of use are common challenges with the growth of any consumer offering. However, unique to OTT providers is the challenge of combatting rampant streaming piracy and preventing revenue leakage while scaling to millions of subscribers.

Take live sports events, for example.

OTT service providers are increasingly committing large sums to secure exclusive content rights to events such as the English Premier League (EPL), American football (NFL), and Cricket World Cup (CWC).

Consequently, this has led to a pirate feeding frenzy. According to a recent report by Ampere Analysis, sports piracy alone costs service providers and rights holders US$28.3 billion a year.

Solely protecting OTT content via digital rights management (DRM) is insufficient since pirates can identify and steal the DRM token, and then redistribute the content many times, circumventing the DRM server to bypass concurrency checking.

Alternatively, they can steal content from the OTT device output by stripping the HDCP protection on the HDMI output, capturing the screen on a PC, or even capturing the video on a high resolution TV.

To stay ahead of the piracy threat, service providers need to deploy an anti-piracy solution into their existing media plane. Preferably, they should deploy one that employs headend watermarking technology to ensure all devices are supported, and invisibly inserts the watermark without degrading video quality or impacting the user experience.

Such a solution must resist the many watermark evasion techniques that pirates employ, while at the same time scaling to millions of users in the largest of markets.

Synamedia’s AWS Solution

Synamedia uses AWS infrastructure across many of their solutions, building on multiple AWS Availability Zones for reliability and resiliency.

Streaming Piracy Disruption is an AWS native application that leverages serverless and AWS managed services such as AWS Lambda, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), AWS WAF, Amazon Cognito, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Aurora to offer a highly robust, resilient, and scalable solution.

For the Headend Watermarking solution, Synamedia provides a decoupled yet seamless API integration with AWS Media Services, integrating with components such as AWS Elemental MediaLive encoder and Amazon CloudFront.

By melding together Synamedia’s strong history of anti-piracy with the global and scalable presence of AWS, Synamedia has been able to take several measures that help live sports rights holders deliver enjoyable OTT services and reduce the growing threat of piracy.

Integrate Headend Watermarking into AWS

The first step is to seamlessly integrate Synamedia’s Headend Watermarking capability with AWS Media Services and Amazon CloudFront (see Figure 1 below). This allows service providers to swiftly add watermarking anti-piracy capabilities to their existing platform.

Adding Headend Watermarking has no impact on content quality or the user experience. Because it applies the watermark in the compressed domain, it requires no changes to the encoder, thus reducing time to deployment.

Synamedia’s HE WM is imperceptible, using a single manifest for all clients. It’s also robust against any watermark avoidance, video distortion, or collusion attack. It complies with studio requirements for 4K/UHD, MovieLab’s specifications for Enhanced Content Protection (ECP), and Streaming Video Alliance guidelines for two-step forensic watermarking in the compressed video domain.

To help manage operating costs, Headend Watermarking can be run for ad hoc events such as live sports, selectively at specific times, on certain channels, or universally 24/7 across all channels.

By combining session-based headend watermarking of Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABR) content with distribution via Amazon CloudFront, you can ensure a smooth service to millions of users, with minimal latency throughout the process, while ensuring any content leaks are traced back to the pirate source.

The watermark insertion occurs in the media plane, while the Variable Sequence Generator (VSG) sequences the video to uniquely identify the user’s account ID in the content delivery network (CDN).


Figure 1 – Synamedia Streaming Piracy Disruption with OTT watermarking on AWS.

Detect and Disrupt Piracy

With Synamedia’s Streaming Piracy Disruption managed service, OTT service providers can detect and disrupt video piracy. Using the watermark, pirated content can be tracked and detected using a unique user ID in any content leaked into pirate streams.

Synamedia’s leakage disruption service can disrupt the source of leakage in real-time by triggering the VSG to terminate the stream of all devices from the leakage account. This prevents pirate devices from accessing the stream, without modifying the DRM.

Alternatively, instead of terminating the leaking account, you can replace the leaking live stream with pre-recorded video ads that encourage the pirate’s viewers to sign up for your legitimate service.

For live events that require quick action, you can configure the Streaming Piracy Disruption workflow to automatically trigger the disruption of these accounts immediately after watermark identification.

And Finally… Intelligence

Lastly, Synamedia’s EverGuard Counter-Piracy Operations Center adds intelligent monitoring. It follows pirate networks and streams, performing trend analysis of repeating pirate services, tracking their reaction to disruptive actions. EverGuard also works with third-party monitoring solutions.

For a large direct to consumer customer, Synamedia protects tens of streams for over 100 million subscribers.

Synamedia integrated Headend Watermarking directly with AWS Elemental MediaLive without disruption of the service, and integrated with CloudFront for CDN distribution. EverGuard, working with the customer’s monitoring solution, is able to immediate disrupt leakage as it is.

AWS and Synamedia: Better Together

With AWS Elemental MediaLive, consumers can enjoy broadcast-grade live video processing, with high-quality video streams delivered to broadcast televisions and internet-connected multiscreen devices, like connected TVs, tablets, smartphones, and set-top boxes.

AWS Elemental MediaPackage reliably prepares and protects video for delivery over the internet. From a single video input, AWS Elemental MediaPackage creates video streams formatted to play on connected TVs, mobile phones, computers, tablets, and game consoles.

This synergy between Synamedia’s Streaming Piracy Disruption, AWS Elemental MediaLive and MediaPackage, and Amazon CloudFront is a game-changer for live sports security on OTT service providers. It offers a way to introduce anti-piracy capabilities without negatively impacting your content or user experience.

This combined solution also gives you the elasticity, high availability, and pay-as-you-go pricing model that can grow your business to support millions of users and thousands of hours of content through region-based services.


When content owners apply a blend of anti-piracy measures—combining data-driven detection methods with both technology and human-based intelligence—they can partially recover some of the $28.3 billion a year lost as pirated content.

For the first time, content owners can offer premium over-the-top (OTT) content in the most secure and scalable way, applying traceability and real-time live source disruption, to not just identify but also block pirate sources.

Together, AWS and Synamedia can help you recover revenue lost to sports piracy. Contact Synamedia to learn more!


Synamedia – AWS Partner Spotlight

Synamedia is an AWS ISV Partner that provides solutions to the video and pay-TV industry, enabling customers to embrace the world of multi-screen video entertainment.

Contact Synamedia | Partner Overview

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