Google Acquires Content Protection Specialist

The acquisition of Widevine could allow Google to bolster YouTube with video optimisation and digital rights management technologies

Google on 3 December bought digital rights management software maker Widevine for an undisclosed sum, providing a fresh measure of content protecting for its YouTube property it currently doesn’t offer.

Widevine’s software improves the quality of video and audio content delivered via the web and ensures copyrighted work isn’t pirated across more than 250 million Internet-enabled devices.

Google TV

This includes devices that power the new Google TV service, such as the Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as software platforms such as Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s iOS platform and Nintendo’s Wii, according to the Seattle Times. Best Buy and Netflix are also Widevine customers.

Google stressed that it will maintain Widevine’s existing business arrangements and will continue to provide direct support for the company’s existing and future clients.

Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management for Google, declined to comment on exactly how Google will apply the Widevine technology other than to say it would enhance Widevine’s existing DRM products and Google’s own services.

Queiroz did say the Widevine assets and talent would be used to “improve access to great video content across the web”.

Positioned thusly, the buy paves the way for Google to accommodate the glut of video content now flooding the web from YouTube, and by extension, YouTube Leanback on Google TV.

Some 35 hours of content, mostly short-length clips, is uploaded each minute on YouTube, which gets more than 2 billion page views per day.

Streaming movies

Widevine customer Netflix, meanwhile, is the most popular streaming website for full-length movies and television series’ of all types. The Netflix app for Apple’s iPad has proven popular, and is also a major draw as a preinstalled app on Google TV.

YouTube and Netflix content, as well as material from other providers, is streamed instantly to web-connected TVs, smartphones, tablets and traditional desktops and laptops on the strength of speedier broadband and wireless access.

“Content creators and distributors are making huge strides in bringing us content in this way, but to do so, many require high-quality video and audio, secure delivery and other content protection and video optimisation technologies,” Queiroz explained in a blog post.

“The Widevine team has worked to provide a better video delivery experience for businesses of all kinds: from the studios that create your favorite shows and movies, to the cable systems and channels that broadcast them online and on TV, to the hardware manufacturers that let you watch that content on a variety of devices.

The purchase comes one day after Google enhanced content protection and piracy controls.

Content protection

This included the pledge to respond to takedown requests for copyrighted content served on its search and Blogger properties within 24 hours of verifying requests from valid rightsholders.

Google’s closing on Widevine also comes the same day it purchased speech synthesis specialist Phonetic Arts, and hours before talks to purchase coupon giant Groupon fizzled.

Google has easily been the most acquisitive high-tech giant in 2010, snapping up more than 40 companies.