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Why is the HDCP standard important to the AV industry?

Latest News / Why is the HDCP standard important to the AV industry?

Establishing, agreeing and meeting standards ensures a certain level of quality regardless of the industry, product or service. In AV the introduction of HDCP was designed to protect high-value digital content, and it works. Over 800 market-leading companies, led by Intel which developed the specification, and including major film studios, digital entertainment producers, broadcasters and technology organisations have licensed and implemented HDCP worldwide, which is a measure of how highly it is regarded.

Not everyone agrees, however. Detractors claim that outside of point-to-point AV it is too restrictive, and that it creates barriers when delivering content to multiple endpoints. What this argument does not allow for is the huge difference between HDCP 2.2 and HDCP Professional.

We agree that using HDCP 2.2 for point-to-point AV applications works well. It is uncompressed and suitable for any environment in which devices are physically near to each other. As soon as transmission takes place over IP, uncompressed HDMI requires too much bandwidth, and this is where HDCP Professional comes into play. It not only compresses video, which is ideal for 4K, but also supports multicast distribution allowing data to be sent to multiple users over a network in a single transmission. Picking the right solution for the job is essential.

Another criticism of HDCP is that it limits the number of endpoints to 1000. It is true that by observing HDCP protocols, there will be a physical limit of 1000 simultaneous connections. But, apart from the fact that 1000 concurrent endpoints are more than most applications require, the restriction can be solved by adding another HDCP-enabled encoder.

Adding an extra encoder is not difficult or expensive to do, after all they are plug-and-play, and can be managed very simply through the desktop. A dedicated media management solution is not required to achieve HDCP streaming but our MediaStar Media Manager has demonstrated time after time that a single interface will control legally transmissible content, regardless of whether the customer is a Premiership football stadium, a shopping centre or a multi-level corporate office.

Another concern we have noted relating to HDCP is that the big streaming players are not adopting the standard. The reality is that Sky, for example, has no need to because its users are protected through their set top boxes and Sky does not broadcast over IP. All broadcasters, however, use HDCP as standard link security for any HDMI connectivity.

HDCP was introduced to protect digital content. HDCP Pro arrived later to take advantage of billions of devices already supporting HDCP, allowing them to be interconnected on commercial AV networks. and adherence to it means that data is being streamed securely and legally. Not everyone working in the AV sector supports HDCP or the aims of the protocol, but in our experience, customers want reassurance that the content they are streaming is secure and legal. The only way to do that is through HDCP-enabled solutions.

Further information on HDCP is available here.