Many content providers and networks have their own set-top boxes that can be connected to any modern TV.
These devices are often running on Android and sometimes allow users to install third-party apps, via Google’s Play store, for example.
This opens the door to a wide range of other apps which can be problematic, especially when they offer a gateway to pirated content that directly competes with the operator’s service.
To address this potential threat, digital security company Irdeto is offering an ‘App Watch’ service. This is part of the company’s broad range of piracy tools and services which also includes the game anti-tamper software Denuvo, which recently expanded with an anti-cheat service.
App Watch is targeted at providers of streaming services who have their own set-top boxes. It’s meant to safeguard these companies against abuse and prevent consumers from using their boxes as piracy tools.
“The problem with giving consumers choice is that they may get distracted from your services, on your platform,” Irdeto writes, pointing out the worst-case scenario.
“Consumers may use your top-of-the-line STB for everything EXCEPT your services, or at most just your basic package. The potential damage ranges from losing content upsell opportunities to outright enabling piracy on your box.”
Irdeto mentions that Google has a vetting process and removes clearly infringing apps from its store. However, the system isn’t perfect, with apps remaining on set-top boxes even after deletion by Google. App Watch monitors pirate apps and can delete them from users’ devices if needed.
In addition, it tackles another major problem that software like Kodi presents. Irdeto stresses that Kodi is perfectly legal. However, it can be abused and exploited by pirate add-ons. This is something App Watch can take care of as well.
App Watch monitors all activity on set-top boxes and it can also see how apps are used. When they connect to pirate streaming sites or use pirate add-ons, the operator can take action. This includes blocking or removing Kodi add-ons, while Kodi itself remains available to users.
“Irdeto provides a range of actions you can take to stop app-based piracy on the set-top box, such as disabling add-ons or blocking URLs,” Irdeto explains, adding that its services can also be used to pursue legal action against pirate suppliers.
All the options and data can be monitored through a dedicated dashboard which reveals how many pirate apps and services are installed. This gives providers full control over their users’ devices.
These app usage data are collected anonymously, but providers can use it to reach out to users directly, and point them back toward the legal options if needed.
“By knowing the demand and methods used to bypass your offers, you can devise promotional strategies and on-screen features that entice and enable viewers to easily switch back to your content offers.”
All in all App Watch sounds like a pretty clever system. Whether consumers will appreciate the monitoring and tracking remains to be seen.
Looking at Irdeto’s Denuvo technology, an often-heard complaint is that the anti-piracy tool decreases performance. While that claim has been disputed, the company is aware of the sensitivities and stresses that App Watch users have nothing to worry about.
“The agent running on the set-top box for monitoring app usage is lightweight and has no performance impact on the viewing experience,” Irdeto concludes.