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SME 2018: Blockchain 101 for Media and Entertainment

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Staying on top of streaming technologies is hard enough, but just to add another level of complexity, companies using blockchain technology are also targeting the media and entertainment industries with a range of disruptive products. A Streaming Media East session called “Mining for Content—Five Ways Blockchain Is Disrupting Entertainment”identified a number of things to consider about this nascent technology.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a transactional technology. Most blockchain companies create their own cryptocurrency as the other part of their business model. The best well known cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, and the cryptocurrency market is quite volatile. The cryptocurrency side of blockchain was outside the purview of this presentation. 

Blockchain was originally developed to handle financial transactions in a distributed ledger, which has a high level of security because data is stored on many systems, instead of just one.

"One party requests a transaction. The transaction is funneled to a peer-to-peer network. Individual nodes receive the transaction and validate them," said Chris Michaels, streaming industry evangelist, Wowza Media Systems. "Approved transactions are represented as blocks and added to a public ledger called a blockchain." If you were to try and maliciously change this data, you would have to reach out to all the nodes on the systems.  

What Can You Do with It? 

The theory behind blockchain is that it enables people to register contracts between two parties and eliminate an intermediary for transactions. The transaction is stored on the blockchain in a distributed fashion, so contracts should be much more secure than if a transaction was only stored on one computer. The opportunity? This could be a medium where secure viewer-to-creator, distributor-to-creator and even viewer-to-viewer transaction could occur, said Michaels. 

"Say I have half my digital library from Google Play, but I'm not interested in this content any longer," said Michaels."How do I get rid of this or get my money back? Can I transfer that smart contract to someone else?” Using blockchain technologies, those opportunities may become possible.

Who's Getting Blockchain Right in Media and Entertainment?

While it is very early in the adoption cycle for blockchain technology, many companies are trying to identify how it could be used in the future. There are a number of companies who are attempting to bring to market products that are relevant to the media and entertainment vertical, said Michaels. 

This includes Decent, who focuses on distribution. The company promises content owners can choose their own pricing and publish content via their platform. White Rabbitenables viewers watching pirated content on peer-to-peer networks to reach out directly to pay producers. White Rabbit’s technology identifies pirated content, and viewers have the ability to voluntarily reach out and anonymously pay for content.  

"Two companies with similar names, Viewly and Viuly are active in the royalties area," said Michaels. "Viewly pitches [that]viewers can watch videos without ads by paying for content by contributions. Viuly is ad-supported, [and] it says it [on its website] ‘Users watch free videos and get rewards. Advertisers place ads and pay directly to their users. Advertising budgets are distributed amongst content creators and users. No more middlemen!'" There are also interesting companies in retail (Flixxo and Voise) and security (Guardtime).

Top Blockchain FAQs

"These are some of the questions blockchain companies are trying to answer: How do I get my content to my viewers reliably? How do I prevent pirated content? How do I sell directly to a viewer or create a subscription service? How do distribute my content securely? How do I pay talent or creators faster?," said Michaels. Is this a situation where there are more questions than answers? Very likely.

The other unasked question in the presentation is “Will any of these blockchain initiatives in media and entertainment succeed?” It's way too early to have sense of that. Stay tuned to see how things develop in this innovative, yet very nascent space.

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