Sky’s rivals have access to the satcaster’s premium sports content, but now they must demonstrate they have the means to secure their newly acquired assets, writes Julian Clover.
Top Up TV’s announcement this week that it too plans to offer the two Sky Sports channels that fall under Ofcom’s Wholesale Must Offer proposals suggest that the regulator has achieved its aims, at least in ensuring availability of Premier League football across a multitude of platforms. It is hard to believe that there could be any further ways to access the English game.
Freesat too has publically expressed an interest in offering pay services. This may seem a little strange for a platform launched on the premise of no ongoing subscription, but very little different to platforms such as Mediaset Premium that started out with a system of ‘rechargeable’ smart cards and is now trying to take it audience down the subscription route.
There is no suggestion that Freesat might go all pay, its ownership by the BBC and ITV will see to that, and there remains the question of whether or not the BBC Trust would approve of such a venture.
The large sums paid by the content providers to the sports rights holders and the Hollywood studios means the MSR is increasingly important. While the BBC prefers to broadcast its public service content in the clear it is prepared to offer protection when required in order to show its viewers the best available content. Hence the use of the Huffman Tables on Freeview.
When the prospect of Top Up TV being able to carry Sky Sports was first raised, BSkyB was understandably nervous, the channels had previously been available terrestrially as part of the now defunct ITV Digital and its version of the Nagravision CA had been widely hacked.
But the Nagravision Merlin system first introduced in November 2007 is a different story. It contains a number of features, such as hidden algorithms and a regionalisation that means an attack on one platform does not leave another vulnerable. More details are given in a report prepared by Farncombe Consulting and submitted to Ofcom by Top Up TV and BT as part of the regulator’s pay-TV review.
The report also lists the various conditional access systems used to secure Premier League content around the world. Put simply, the FA Premier League is clearly satisfied that the majority of high profile CAs are more than capable of doing the job.
One of the discussions between Top Up TV and BSkyB is over whether the DTT paycaster should be allowed to use its cards in the conditional access slots that appear on many IDTVs. This may be incidental because another part of Top Up TV’s business is its VOD library, downloaded into set-top boxes. Concerns over the security of the ‘original’ CAMs led to the development of CI Plus.
Which brings us back to Freesat. It has one million STBs in the market, none of which have a slot for a conditional access module. It would be an easy conclusion to suggest Nagravision as the most suitable system for Freesat, were there anywhere to put the card.