Google is buying Widevine, a Seattle vendor of digital-rights management software that’s widely used by broadcasters to safely transmit video content online.
The move comes as Google is pledging to do a better job protecting copyrighted material and fending off a renewed lawsuit by Viacom over copyright violations.
By acquiring Widevine, Google will instantly become a dominant player in the market for protecting video content broadcast over the Web. The company is already the largest distributor of online video by far but it currently doesn’t have its own streaming-video DRM technology other than a “content ID” fingerprinting system developed for YouTube.
A Google spokesman declined to say whether the company will apply Widevine’s DRM technology to the vast amount of video the company hosts and distributes. Having a more robust system to track and protect streaming video could help the company if it decides to renew efforts to create pay video services and other content subscription services.
Widevine may also help Google build new relationships with wary broadcasters resentful of the way Google’s platforms have been used to distribute unauthorized copies of their material.
Widevine’s DRM technology is used in more than 250 million Web-connected devices, including TVs and Blu-ray players made by Samsung, LG and Panasonic. Its DRM technology is also used in GoogleTV devices, the Android operating system, Apple’s iOS platform and Nintendo’s Wii.
In a blog post announcing the deal, Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, said Widevine has “worked to provide a better video delivery experience for businesses of all kinds,” from studios to cable systems and hardware manufacturers
“By forging partnerships across the entire ecosystem, Widevine has made on demand services more efficient and secure for media companies, and ultimately more available and convenient for users,” he wrote.
A price wasn’t disclosed but Widevine has raised more than $65 million from investors including Cisco Systems, Samsung, Charter Ventures, Dai Nippon Printing, Constellation Ventures, Liberty Global, PaceSetter Capital, Phoenix Partners and VantagePoint Venture Partners.
Widevine’s 60 employees will relocate from the company’s offices in downtown Seattle to Google’s Kirkland campus.
The release quote from Widevine Chief Executive Brian Baker, who co-founded the company in 1999:
By working with Google, we are even further committed to the consumer Internet video experience and to the needs of content owners. Widevine will continue to supply the industry with leading video optimization and content protection solutions. We are excited to have access to Google’s vast resources as we continue to improve our products, support our customers, and meet the future needs of consumers, content owners, service providers and device manufacturers everywhere.
Another co-founder — who is now teaching in California — was former Microsoft and AT&T cryptography researcher Jeremy Horwitz.
Google has been negotiating with Widevine for several months as pressure on the search giant grew from copyright holders.
Google announced Thursday that it’s stepping up efforts to remove content that infringes on copyright from its sites and will more promptly remove infringing material.
Then earlier today, Viacom resumed its lawsuit over YouTube hosting pirated material from its networks, including Comedy Central and MTV. Viacom is appealing a June ruling in Google’s favor, made by the U.S. District Court in New York.
Meanwhile, Google continues to draw millions to its video services. Its sites drew 146.3 million unique viewers who conducted 2 billion viewing sessions — averaging 271.6 minutes per viewer — in October, according to comScore.