The Open Authentication Technology Committee (OATC) is a non-profit industry association of television programmers/content owners, multi-channel video program distributors (MVPDs), technology companies, and system integrators committed to developing open, voluntary technical standards and recommended practices that enable consumers to access subscription TV content via participating Internet sites, also referred to as "TV Everywhere".
The increasing consumer demand for access to video on devices other than TVs led representatives from cable companies and content owners to meet to discuss the interoperable technical means by which they could enable consumers to access content on the content providers' web properties and efficiently obtain authorization from MVPDs (distributors) that maintain subscriber account information.
The initial scenario the companies considered was: To enable consumers to access premium video content on websites hosted by the content providers, the consumers needed to be Authenticated and Authorized by their MVPD.
- First the consumer would visit a Content Provider website and select a piece of content .
- Then the website would prompt the user to select their MVPD from a list of the names of potential MVPDs.
- After choosing their MVPD the viewer would be asked to enter their MVPD account information into a web form. This would then be authenticated by the MVPD to the content provider to verify that the consumer was authorized for the specific channel associated with the content they wanted to access.
In early 2010, approaches were devised based on the existing SAML Authentication and Authorization specifications to enable authorized customers of MVPDs to view video content from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (NBCU) and March Madness (Turner) on the web and on internet connected devices like phones and tablets.
From these early experiences it quickly became clear that an open-standards based interoperability solution defining the Authentication (AuthN) and Authorization (AuthZ) protocols would benefit content owners and distributors by reducing the complexity of the software integrations between each content provider and all of the distributors that offered their content, while allowing for a more consistent and intuitive user experience for consumers. On the distributor side each MVPD might need to integrate their backend billing/authorization systems with as many as 50-100 channel providers. This realization led to the formation of the OATC in 2011.
The OATC mission is to develop open technical standards, frameworks and recommended practices that can be used to implement a system of authenticated access to subscription TV content on the Internet. Consumers need a simple, easy-to-use way to access subscription content on the internet and OATC technical standards provide interoperable means for content websites to allow consumers to sign in to their multichannel video programming distributor, authenticate them as a subscriber, and authorize their access to content that is part of their service package. OATC standards facilitate secure data exchanges between content providers and their brands websites and mobile apps (such as HBO Go, CNN, NBC) and MVPDs authentication and authorization systems, while ensuring consumer anonymity and privacy.
OATC Benefit to Consumers
The OATC was created to help to streamline the TV Everywhere (TVE) ecosystem and make it easier for MVPD customers to access subscription content hosted on websites from the Content Providers, as seamlessly as possible.
In addition, by sharing lessons learned and recommending some common messaging and iconography, OATC is promoting a more consistent and easier to navigate user experience for consumers.
Home Based Authentication -- the use of a cable modem or other device to verify the viewer at home instead of requiring re-entry of a username and password -- came about based on analytics and learnings from high failure rates during early deployments. One of the guiding principles is that it should be as easy for a consumer to stream video online as it is to turn on a set top box to watch video.
OATC Benefit to Members
OATC provides a forum for industry members to create standardized authentication and authorization protocols for content developers and distributors:
- To allow customers to login (authenticate) and access content without the customer having to leave a website or app.
- Once authenticated, to check that the customer is authorized for the content they are attempting to access.
The OATC also encourages its members to share their technical best practices and lessons learned in the context of TV Everywhere deployments and help to improve the consumer experience.
The OATC members determined that standardizing the means of Authentication and Authorization would streamline the process for both distributors and content providers while preserving competition through interoperability. This would be accomplished by making it easier to scale up the number of integrations, and by making the integrations virtually identical so that any differences could be handled by minor configuration changes.
The OATC charter provides for two classes of membership for interested entities that are significantly involved in developing and licensing video programing content (Principal Programmers), providing consumer access to such content (Principal Distributors), or developing and selling infrastructure or support services for delivery of such content to consumers (Technology Companies):
- Principal Members, which are entitled to a board seat and voting rights.
- Associate Members, which have access to all draft standards or other work product and participate in meetings but do not have any voting rights.