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Adventures in the Movieverse: Web3, Blockchain, Eluvio, and the Future of Streaming

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Delivering a Secure, Frictionless, Un-NTF-Like User Experience

Munson is well aware of the bad press that crypto and NFTs have garnered in recent months, and she acknowledges the need for reassurance that engaging with this new entertainment technology does not differ very much from the ways that consumers are already used to buying and trading special editions and collectibles, nor does it expose them to new risks. “Crypto has been riddled with many [bad] perceptions and problems,” she says, with respect to “how hard it is to deal with for regular people and perceptions of how unsafe it is. And some of those are real, not just perceptions.”

What Munson wants general users to understand is that they do not need any prior experience whatsoever with crypto in order to enjoy these new entertainment offerings. They can log in to their wallet and access their keys with their own email or Google ID and pay with a regular credit or debit card. There is no requirement to directly engage in cryptocurrencies.

“I will tell you honestly, we have literally had zero support tickets about signing in or getting into a wallet,” she says. “The Content Fabric underlying technology makes the security of the content and its tamper-proofness guaranteed by the protocol. So what you’re getting is what the publisher has published for you, including the metadata. Along with that, it’s accessed through a simple and easy-to-use wallet and the browser. And I think the best proof of this, if you go watch some of the user reactions to Lord of the Rings videos that were published by various people just on YouTube and other social channels, one of the things the users said was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so easy, and it doesn’t seem like an NFT.’ It doesn’t seem like something done on the blockchain.”

Jessica Schell, EVP and general manager of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, also underscores the streamlined and ultimately familiar-seeming nature of this new technology for the average user. “We are committed to being at the forefront of technology, but doing so in a way where that technology is frictionless to consumers,” Schell says. “When you see it, it will be easy to miss that it’s actually using Web3, or NFTs, under the hood. And that’s part of the point. It’s designed for mass consumers—not just early NFT adopters or crypto fans. I believe that Web3, and the use of NFTs, will reach true mass consumer adoption when it’s seamless and ubiquitous, like our use of Web 2.0 is today. From our perspective, this initiative has important implications as a potential new way to handle movie distribution directly to fans: engage those fans through communities and tradable marketplaces and demonstrate the practical utility of Web3/NFTs.”

Creator Enconomy Web3

Creator Economy Web2 versus Web3

Schell highlights that this rapid evolution in fan engagement and interactivity would not be possible without Eluvio’s tech stack. “It’s the first in a series of Web3 movie offerings that we plan to offer from Warner and Eluvio,” she says. “In fact, all of this wouldn’t be possible without the right technology platform in place, which is why we’ve teamed with Eluvio. Eluvio is a pioneer and absolute leader in the application of blockchain technology for the media and entertainment industry.”

Improving Environmental Efficiency and Lowering Costs

As with other mining-driven industries, another important concern with crypto and blockchain technology is its heavy environmental impact. For example, many means of cryptocurrency mining are very energy-intensive while also running the risk of higher real-time monetary costs.

However, Munson notes that “the Content Fabric protocol cuts huge amounts of cost out of traditional CDNs and transcoding services because there are no file copies. It’s fully componentized. It consolidates all those layers through its technology, and that allows the cost to be very low, both in carbon footprint and real dollars. So Warner could offer this at $100 for the top-line Epic Edition and $30 for the Mystery Edition, a price that makes sense for people at large and doesn’t limit the market to just collectors or people that are in a position to be market whales. I think those two things together are so important to being able to bring this to mainstream entertainment and also provide educational communication through video.”

legacy content distribution

Legacy content distribution

Life Before Eluvio

Munson was the co-founder of data transport and streaming technology company Aspera, and prior to that, she was a software engineer in research and startup companies, including IBM’s Almaden research center. She holds dual B.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering and physics and was a Goldwater Scholar for achievement in science and mathematics. She then received a postgraduate diploma in computer science at Cambridge University.

Her time at Aspera laid the groundwork for the development of Eluvio’s Content Fabric. There, she and Aspera co-founder Serban Simu created the low-packet-loss Fast Adaptive and Secure Protocol (FASP), and the company and technology were later acquired by IBM. “The number one motivation for the Content Fabric is the experience that Serban and I had working in the file transfer aspect of the supply chain to the CDNs,” Munson says. “One of the things that we learned in that process is that the content delivery pipeline has not really innovated since 1999. I say that because we were tasked to integrate the Aspera fast protocol for ingest into the most important or largest CDNs,” she explains. “In that process, we realized that the technology hadn’t changed much at all in 20 years. It’s creating package versions, getting them out to edge caches, and serving them. That’s that. And then the second thing we learned is that the upstream of that was a lot of redundancy, making the same things over and over again in slight variations as file representations and then transferring them around. So our impetus to create the Content Fabric protocol was to remake something from the ground up that we would consider internet native content.”

The idea, she explains, was to create “a protocol that would take out all of the waste as we saw it and could be real time by design without having to force it to be real time. And the thing we learned as a result of being part of the media supply chain for many years and then discovering the power of blockchain technology is the great need for a decentralized state in a way that would move the security to the content itself and free the content chain to be a direct and scalable transaction between parties. And that was the second big idea of Content Fabric: the direct settlement between parties, removing the intermediaries. That is what unlocks all this new value.”

Eluvio Content Fabric Protocol

Content Fabric protocol breakdown

Intermediaries Be Gone! How Fan Bases Achieve True Scalable Ownership

Bringing authentic ownership of media assets for IP such as The Lord of the Rings is the core innovation underlying The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Extended Edition. “There are only two parties,” Munson says. “Warner Bros. and the fan—and between the fan and the reselling fan to whom they sell on the secondary [market]. There is only that fan to the second fan with Warner as residuals. That’s the purest, most scalable form of ROI for the publisher. Not to mention the fact that it appeals to the native instinct of people to be part of something in their ownership as a fan base.”

The way this new model fits into the realm of Web3 overall is the ultimate core value for Munson. “Scalable ownership!” she says. “The most important thing here is to restore ROI to those that are bringing value to the publisher—they hold the return—and to the fan who can also partake and help to grow that. Today’s web as it has been—particularly with streaming providers—puts a provider’s network in the middle of all that. The audience is passive; they don’t own. And the provider’s network takes a large chunk of the distribution revenue.”

With this latest Eluvio movieverse adventure, the true rewards of blockchain-driven decentralization for Web3 are closer than ever.

Not Just Another NFT

These projects have by and large been big hits with fans, and considering the uniqueness of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Extended Edition, both Eluvio and Warner Bros. have paid close attention to tracking fan reactions. “Because this was a first-of-its-kind pilot, both Warner and we looked really deeply at it,” Munson says. “First, we saw ad-hoc feedback, and I was pleasantly surprised, and I think they were also very happy that users just made postings, and their postings were basically videos on YouTube. Maybe in the future there’ll be something else, but on YouTube, they talked about how exciting it was. They said it was really easy, they really loved it, and it didn’t cost very much. That was sort of the Holy Grail. The fact that they were motivated enough to make a special video and get so excited about it speaks to the product.”

The next key element of quantifying the project’s success, of course, was tracking available data. “We did look at the engagement, how much watch there was on the 4K film, how much engagement through the interactive experience,” Munson says. “It was high and unlike any other NFT offering. Most people watched most of the film and spent a lot of time actually engaging with the experience. That dovetailed with the comments that we read on social media, and what we heard from people was they actually really liked it and they watched it.”

Munson says that the Epic Edition sold out in 3 minutes. “But I think that’s not the most interesting to me, because NFTs are bubbled, and I don’t think Warner is interested in that either,” she says. “I think what they’re interested in, first of all, is, did people want to buy it? That’s most important. But after they bought it, why did they buy it? And that’s where I think the engagement combined with the market holding its price and then with users—we get a lot of requests from people as to what’s next. And fortunately, there is a ‘what’s next’ coming very soon. So keep your eyes out for that. I can honestly tell you this is a true pilot to look at this new format—a new format, not just another NFT.”

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