Silverlight Beating Flash When It Comes To DRM Protection

In an interview this week in the Wall Street Journal, Adobe's CEO said that with the recent round of layoffs, Adobe would be better focused to grow their online video business. That's good news to hear from Adobe because being at the top requires a lot of work to stay there, especially when the competition is heating up. If there is one thing Adobe needs to really work on, it's their strategy for getting content owners to use Flash for video that needs digital rights management (DRM).

To date, Microsoft is still winning the business that requires DRM. Their free PlayReady solution PlayReady server costs $30,000 but as noted in the comments below, is offered by third party hosting companies without the need for content owners to buy their own server, which is what I was trying to imply when I said it was free. The PlayReady solution supports connected playback with streaming or progressive-downloaded content and yesterday Microsoft announced another customer, BSkyB, that is using Silverlight powered by PlayReady. Other recent wins by Microsoft also include Netflix which is using Silverlight for their Watch Now service for Mac users.

Adobe on the other hand is selling a server for DRM called the Adobe Flash Media Rights Management Server with a list price at $40,000 per CPU. Since there is no SDK, as noted in the comments section, third parties can't offer the functionality as a hosted service. If that price has come down, I hope someone will let me know, but from what I can tell, it is still that expensive. Right now, content owners needs more tools and support to help protect their content and try to make a business model out of online video. It would make more sense for Adobe to give away the DRM functionality to act as an enabler for content owners to use the other pieces of their Flash video platform.

I'm sure Adobe is just trying to be compensated for the work they have done to create the DRM server, but with so few content owners willing to pay the price, Adobe could make more money in the long run by bundling the DRM functionality into one of the other Flash Media servers.

  • Johannes Scholl

    Does it even make sense to use DRM with Flash, if it only works in a stand-alone-player version?

  • shaun

    just wanted to give you a shout out Dan! you dont get enough of those.
    great blog and i check it daily, only one i have found that offers true insider insight that an outsider can understand. keep up the good work and thanks for everything!

  • “Their free PlayReady solution…”
    I checked the Microsoft PlayReady Server website, the server costs 30 000 USD.
    Of course it’s cheaper than Adobe, but far from free.
    I wonder that the Adobe DRM is available in AIR but not in the player, they should include it.

  • Dan,
    Great to see you finally covering the DRM space !
    Let me see if I can clear the air on some of the issues you raise.
    To date, both Adobe and Microsoft have put a great amount of effort into their nexgen DRM platforms.
    Adobe initially rolled out FMRMS as a software platform which is available for license for about $40K per FMRMS CPU. Their platform also requires the use of a Java App server and some conventional database and webservers.
    Adobe’s solution als has pre-baked authentication and business models included. There is no SDK for the platform such that 3rd party providers can integrate FMRMS into their existing Rights Management platforms. As a result, BuyDRM provided extensive feedback to Adobe over a period of about 16 months that appears to have had an effect.
    In the past few months the company has informed it’s numerous FMRMS service provider partners that they are actively working to implement a solution that includes and SDK which will enable the type of deployments that Adobe needs to really enable the widespread deployment of encrypted Flash Media content.
    I have provided more info about this platform at:
    Due to the extensive costs related to deploying a conventional DRM platform like FMRMS, the marketplace at large is really looking to the date when the technology will be available via a 3rd party service provider. When this happens we expect the market to explode.
    Yes FMRMS requires the AIR technology which is built into AMP, however any content owner can use AIR inside an app they build to deliver encrypted media.
    In the case of Microsoft’s Silverlight, the technology is definitely not free. It’s priced in a similar way as Adobe’s FMRMS with a $30,000 one-time fee for the PlayReady Server license. To deploy this technology, content owners would have to make a substantial investment in a variety of other support technologies to fully enable PlayReady for production use.
    Microsoft has done a great job of getting 2 large early-adopters on board with the PlayReady technology. This is to be expected given their 8 year history in deploying the world’s most-widely deployed DRM platform, the Windows Media Rights Manager platform [WMRM] which is commonly mistakenly referred to as “Plays For Sure” or Windows Media DRM in the press.
    Building on that huge success story, PlayReady will soon be available as a hosted service and content owners will be able to tap into the the benefits of the cross-platform compatibility PlayReady affords and the tight integration with Silverlight.
    These are definitely exciting times in the DRM industry at large and thanks again Dan for providing this type of coverage on our industry in your blog.

  • Christopher, thanks for the long and detailed post. I updated my post to better explain what you noted since the way I originally wrote it, was inaccurate in the way I described it as being free.

  • Both Microsoft Silverlight DRM powered by PlayReady and Adobe FMRMS DRM technologies have their strengths and weaknesses, Adobe is new to the game thus has room to grow and Microsoft is not rushing either with certain feature sets in Silverlight DRM/PlayReady.
    Both companies want to have a rock solid DRM and insure the pitfalls of “DRM in general” don’t cause history to repeat itself, such as being not being cross-platform.
    My company works closely with Microsoft and Adobe to help shape the product and bring DRM to the masses.
    Although Microsoft may be ahead of Adobe, don’t count them out, FMRMS is a very good DRM technology and the road map looks very promising.

  • it seems that there are still a lot of people that just don’t get it… DRM is just a waste of resources and money. Anything that you can see watch a computer can be “recorded” so no matter what technology is used for DRM it’s just a matter of time to crack it. Perhaps the content providers should just charge a fee “per view” which the service provider (e.g. youtube, amazon etc ) should “risk” to pay it (perhaps from the ads money ).