First the good news- after months of research and experimentation, we’ve found a round-about way to enable and detect HDCP on tvOS using existing public APIs. It’s not as ideal as a real API to directly control HDCP would be, but it is workable for our purposes. This gets us past the existing roadblock which was preventing progress on the DRM support feature request.
Unfortunately there’s still lots of bad news. Our attempts at getting a DTCP-IP license from the DTLA have stalled out. The DTLA Adopter Agreement has a clause which imposes a $1 million - $8 million liability in case the DRM keys or methods are leaked by us or our app. Since we are a tiny company with nowhere near one million dollars, the DTLA has deemed us ineligible to be DTCP-IP licensees.
Further, we’re having a really hard time making the economics of DTCP-IP work. Yearly costs for a DTCP-IP license keys start at $20k/year. Once we have the keys, we also need to license an SDK which implements the DRM algorithm. Then there are R&D costs to actually implement and test DTCP-IP in our app. These add up quickly, and even if we were to pass them onto the customers who want DRM support, it would be quite expensive per user.
So far, 300 users have responded to our DRM survey. Let’s say that all of them agreed to subscribe to the DRM feature right away (which is unlikely). With 300 users, we would need to charge $15 per month per user to cover our costs. This makes it even more unlikely people would sign up, since the price is much higher than anticipated. However, the fewer users that subscribe, the more the price would need to increase. And the more it costs, the fewer people who will end up signing up. It’s a catch-22. Over time it’s possible more and more customers would sign on and the cost would decrease for everybody, but we have no idea how many more PRIME users are out there who might be interested in Channels if it had DRM support.
We’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to make DRM support work, but so far it seems the odds are stacked against us. The cable companies and content providers have a vested interest in keeping customers renting their equipment, so they can continue to collect monthly fees, push their ads, and promote channels/content from their preferred partners. Small players like us are explicitly left out in the dust. Even with FCC mandates like the availability of CableCARDs, the big players have found a way to maintain their monopolies.