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A Solid OTT Content Distribution Strategy Can Strengthen Your Business

Learn how to set effective parameters using correct geolocations so the right people see the right content

About OTT content management

It’s not up for debate: Over-the-top content (OTT) is an inexorable part of our lives. Whether it’s your cell phone, laptop or wearable device, our demand for digital media is continuous and insatiable. According to Nielsen, the average adult in the US consumes nearly 11 hours of digital media every day.¹ And over half of US households with Wi-Fi streamed content on OTT devices for an average of 50 hours per month.²

While the average person may not think about how much digital media they consume, content providers need to be mindful of it every moment. There are strict guidelines and requirements in place that govern how, where and by whom specific kinds of digital media can be consumed. Although those guidelines do not apply to this whitepaper, they may apply to movies, music, live broadcasts and many other types of electronic media.

TransUnion helps OTT content providers manage and enforce geocompliance through advanced technology solutions such as TruValidate™ IP Geolocation and TruValidate™ IP Reputation, with Neustar®. This whitepaper contains best practices for digital rights compliance in a global and increasingly mobile consumer market.

Know your content’s rights

OTT content delivery is governed by complex and changing rules that require content delivery platforms to constantly manage and enforce viewing policies on a multitude of mobile and fixed devices around the world. For example, a live baseball game may be blacked out for viewers located within the in-market viewing area. Or, that same game could be restricted for a certain period of time unless a viewer has a subscription with the content owner.

Content delivery platforms are likely to encounter a multitude of rights requirements when broadcasting content, such as

  • Access to content may be restricted to certain geographies (e.g., a movie available in the U.S. may not be available to viewers in South America)
  • Certain types of network connections may have restricted access to content based on contractual obligations or their propensity to obfuscate geolocation
  • Detecting credential abuse and unauthorized logins to view digital content

In order to manage and enforce these rights, content delivery platforms require access to reliable, actionable data that connects an end-user’s IP address with geolocation, network attributes, contextual data points, and reputational information.

Know your role

As an OTT content provider, you need to be able to identify users and enforce policies across a multitude of devices and locations. Equally important, you do this in a seamless manner that doesn’t disrupt the user experience or prevent legitimate users from accessing content how and where they want (provided it complies with their user agreements).

To accomplish this, content providers require a delivery platform that can:

  • Restrict digital media access based on country, state, city or postal code
  • Restrict digital media access based on the originating IP address, while checking against potential risks, such as anonymous proxies or virtual private networks (VPNs) that may disguise the originating IP address
  • Restrict digital media access when the originating IP address is associated with a known offender (e.g., a BitTorrent service)

For data, quality counts

Poor data quality can undermine the policy enforcement of digital rights and put your content platform at risk of non-compliance. To be effective, IP address data needs to be fresh, actionable and robust. TransUnion recommends data on IP addresses, geolocation, proxy/VPN associations, reputational data, etc. be updated at least weekly. We also recommend content providers review their data analysis practices twice a year to ensure processes and data fields are aligned with recent market changes and new licensing requirements.

In our experience, not all content providers are capable of hosting this data on-site. For that reason, we recommend selecting an IP geolocation provider that can offer data services as a hosted, web-based solution or a data file that can be downloaded to the content provider’s data center. Choosing a data provider that supports both models gives content providers more flexibility, particularly where content policies need to be enforced locally in a variety of geographies.

Which data matters?

TransUnion recommends content providers begin by analyzing the consumer’s IP address to identify restricted or suspicious endpoints.

Common data fields content providers should collect include:

  • Country, state and city of the Internet connection
  • Network connection type – especially valuable when content should be restricted on mobile connections
  • Proxy status, which calls out proxy type (either public proxy or VPN) that can be used to hide the geolocation of an Internet connection
  • Hosting facility – (e.g., data centers) where generally speaking, content providers should not expect to see traffic requesting content

A reliable IP geolocation vendor will also associate a location-specific confidence factor (CF) for each of its location attributes. The CF value indicates the level of confidence when linking an IP address to a geolocation; given network connection and access to supplementary data will influence the precision in connecting an IP address to a location. Generally speaking, the higher the CF, the greater the likelihood the connection in question is situated in the location assigned. Using CF, you can create rule sets around when to flag content requests for a secondary review.

When is the right time to check your data?

OTT content management is most effective when it leverages the right data at the right time. TransUnion recommends content providers check user and device/location data at critical intervals in the content delivery process, such as:

  • Account registration
  • Website login
  • During financial transactions
  • When digital content is selected

In addition, it’s a good practice to check user/device data periodically during video streaming sessions to ensure users haven't moved into a restricted area or continued the session on a restricted device.

Three things to watch for: Location, location and location

Films, music and other types of digital media often carry various access restrictions based on the current location of the user. For example, a US-based consumer may have the right to stream certain movies in their home location through a video delivery platform, but may have a different set of choices from the same platform when they log in from another country. In a world where most digital media is mobile, understanding and validating location is critical to content delivery.

TransUnion recommends content providers filter their digital media based on at least three levels of location-specific data depending on their contractual obligations with content owners:

  • Filter by country
  • Filter by state
  • Filter by city

As mentioned earlier, locations should be assigned a confidence factor (CF) value as determined by the likelihood the geolocation attributes are correctly linked to the IP address in question. Based on filter parameters, content providers can choose to block content delivery if the country, state or city CF value is below the provider’s set threshold. (Based on TransUnion’s methodology for setting geolocation, we can advise on how to set CF thresholds based on a provider’s needs when using TransUnion data.)

Doing the address redress

Sometimes an IP geolocation linkage doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, it may not indicate when a user has crossed into a different country by “hiding” behind a proxy server in a location where content access isn't allowed. To combat these issues, TransUnion recommends content providers have the capabilities to dig deeper into the data to get at the source truth.

Enhanced analytic capabilities that content providers should consider include:

  • Checking the network connection type for the presence of a mobile gateway when viewing content over mobile connections isn't allowed by content owners
  • Filtering users who are behind an anonymous (i.e., public) proxy or VPN to block content access to users who may be located in areas when digital content should be available
  • Blocking access to IP addresses associated with hosting facilities that should not be accessing digital content

DIY: Advanced proxy detection

If a content provider doesn’t have access to a list of IPs associated to proxies, or wants to be more robust in filtering out users who may be accessing restricted content, there are a couple of other ways of identifying IPs which might be in use to proxy traffic.

Investigate all IPs associated with a user session coming into your network. Often times, DNS proxy providers will only mask end user public IP addresses on login/authentication events, but other transactions will be done via the public IP address of the end user, allowing the content provider to ascertain location of the end user.

  • Also, be sure to have any partner (e.g., CDN or cloud provider) perform the same check before allowing access to your network

On a monthly basis, have your network team research the most active IP addresses accessing your content (or work with a trusted partner to perform this research). IP addresses and blocks used by VPNs or proxies will have higher usage than those used by individual end users and can be flagged for further investigation.

Point to the right place with IP Geolocation

TruValidate IP Geolocation is the industry’s most actionable source for geo-sensitive digital content rights management. It delivers fresh, enriched data to content providers so they can enforce digital media policies across devices and geographies with an exceptional degree of accuracy and trust.

With IP Geolocation, content providers can manage their digital media rights using the industry’s best practices and the best data.

¹Nielsen Q2 2017 Total Audience Report
²ComScore, Reaching the Elusive OTT Consumer 2018