NFTs Come To Connected TV
You know you've reached peak NFT when you don't have to explain what the letters mean and when there's an entire TV channel devoted to the things.
Launching on Roku, StreamNFT is the first connected TV app devoted to NFT art. For that tiny fraction of the population who own NFT art, StreamNFT presents a software-based solution for getting your NFTs on a TV.
By installing StreamNFT from the Roku Channel Store and then logging in with their Ethereum-based wallet, a customer's NFTs are automatically downloaded from the blockchain, and optimized to display on all Roku-enabled streaming devices and Roku-platform televisions (about 60 million in the market, according to estimates).
"I think what we're doing bridges a few worlds that are very exciting: Connected TVs, NFTs, and Web3," explains Kevin McCarthy, founder of NFT Lab, which is behind StreamNFT. "At a high level, StreamNFT for Roku offers utility for NFT aficionados, and discovery and exploration for everyone."
He continues, "When many people think of NFTs, they think of collections (someone makes 10,000 of something, with different attributes for each NFT). That's not really what we're about."
NFT Lab launched in 2021 with a search engine for NFTs that aims to connect interested buyers with the marketplaces like Foundation, SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, and Rarible.
"We think we're a cross between a product comparison engine and a search engine," McCarthy blogged at the time. "Much of the information we're aggregating and displaying for you here is not available, to our knowledge, anywhere else on the Internet. What we've created isn't TikTok or YouTube, it's something different, but I think equally engaging. It's straight art."
It has since indexed and curated about 560,000 pieces of unique 1:1 digital art growing at a rate of 1000+ daily.
The bulk are still images but the total also includes over 50,000 videos that meet its algorithmic criteria for displaying on a TV, another 50K videos that don't meet that threshold, and about 20,000 NFTs that have file formats that currently aren't able to display on the Roku device – (GIF files can display but not animate, 3D files cannot display at all, and a few more obscure still image file formats).
"One more interesting feature here that's totally behind the scenes is we're customizing our streams that you see to the device you're visiting the StreamNFT Channel with. So 720p, 1080p, and 2160p (4K) users will have slightly different experiences, tailored and maximized to what they can support. I'm sure that's old news for CTV pros, but for NFTs, which live on the blockchain, it's pretty cool."
The average length of video is 30-45 seconds. There are also 2-second videos (many of these are designed to display on an endless loop, and there's a feature in the channel called "pin this NFT to my TV" to support this).
There's also longer-form content up to around 10 minutes. "Since no one has ever put NFTs on a TV, we're kind of finding the road as we drive it. We have the ability for registered users to "Like" and "Dislike" content, so hopefully they'll continue to help us light the path."
McCarthy certainly has a point that millions of NFTs have been created, but the vast majority have never had an audience of more than a few dozen people.
"The reason that much of this art is forlorn to obscurity is not because it's terrible—quite the contrary! It's because no one has ever attempted to organize, sort, and rank these NFTs, and present only the best content on a CTV.
StreamNFT is also presenting information, such as title, description, created date, marketplace of origin, and last sale price in the StreamNFT channel.
At CES this year Samsung announced an "NFT aggregation platform" integrated into its smart TVs. The idea, according to a press release, is that users "can preview an NFT before purchasing it and even learn about its history — from who created it, to what comprises its blockchain metadata."
Whether this is done with remarkable foresight or is simply the biggest waste of space in a TV ever is hard to tell but the firm was not alone in talking about non-fungible tokens.
LG are moving into this space too but McCarthy says any planned features require the purchase of the latest hardware from those companies. StreamNFT on the other hand "has a simple and fast integration with your existing hardware and CTV setup".
NFT Lab's primary goal is discovery and entertainment and that a natural extension from that is commerce. It currently shows the last sale price (converted to $USD, at the time of the sale – some of the marketplaces transact in Ethereum, some in USD) and will be adding a 'For Sale Price' shortly.
Currently, when you press up or down on the remote, while watching a Stream, you get presented this NFT Info Menu. This allows you to scan the QR code that appears on your TV screen, and be taken directly to the marketplaces where this NFT currently trades, and make an offer or buy it outright.
McCarthy believes bringing Web3 media to a Web2 (or is it Web1?) device like a Connected TV will open the NFT market beyond its current niche.
"Most of the NFT websites/marketplaces are pretty technical, and the trend at this moment in NFTs is to focus on 'collections' (like Bored Apes or Crypto Punks)," he says. "This wasn't how NFTs burst back into pop culture in late 2020, early 2021 though. It was "1 of 1" unique digital art that thrust NFTs in the mainstream, and we think this trend may swing back to more unique digital creations in the future."
Could the channel be a platform for content creators to use tokens to fund and market new shows?
"I'd love to explore with content creators what their goals and challenges are," he says. "We are definitely are on the bleeding edge of what's possible, so it would be an interesting discussion, for both of us, if nothing else. We're currently a completely free channel with no advertising to maximize growth."
It's possible that the people buying NFTs will one day find their investments as valuable as original Picassos and Monets. But the NFT market appears to be cooling off. Even NFT mogul Gary Vaynerchuk recently predicted 98 percent of NFTs would lose money.
In response there's now an increasing focus on "utility"—basically, bundling other things with an NFT purchase (like concert tickets, signed memorabilia or early access to future releases) to ensure there's something of value included, even if the value of the NFT itself goes to zero.
"NFTs are personal property, in a way most other digital goods aren't," says Kevin Roose in The New York Times. "When you upload a video to YouTube, YouTube hosts that video on its servers and effectively makes all of the decisions related to that video — whether it violates community guidelines, whether it's eligible to run ads, whether it gets recommended by the algorithm, and so on."
But NFTs live in their owners' crypto wallets, which aren't chained to any particular platform, and they can use them any way they choose.
There's also the idea that NFTs can be interoperable — that is, unlike buying a ‘skin' in Fortnite that can only be used inside Fortnite, you can theoretically take NFTs with you from one virtual environment to another.
"Or if you get mad at OpenSea, you can easily take your NFTs (which live in your crypto wallet, not on OpenSea's servers) and trade them on a different platform," says Roose. "That kind of thing doesn't happen in social media. If you have a YouTube channel, you can't simply port your subscribers over to TikTok when you feel like it."
NFT Marketplaces Evolve
"Most NFT transactions come from a small handful of traders that are chasing the next flip [quick trade]," points out Peter Yang, product lead at Reddit in this blog. "But marketplaces should focus on the next 1 billion people who can buy NFTs but don't."
Specifically, Yang thinks marketplaces should make it easy for people to buy NFTs directly with credit cards (the biggest, OpenSea, already supports this).
Yet OpenSea's collector profiles are missing basic social features such as a follow button and the ability for collectors to customize their profile.
"Making people care about their profile and social graph will help marketplaces build stickiness," Yang says.
He also thinks NFT marketplaces need to evolve discovery from focusing on top trending projects to personalized recommendations and search based on each user's on-chain activity and preferences.
"To put it simply, NFT marketplaces should be the web3 Google or Amazon."
Twitter, for example, has shipped basic features like setting your profile pic to be an NFT. "It's already the go-to platform for web3 people to connect with each other and discover cool projects. Why not let people add a wallet and track on-chain activity as well?"
Some say NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a novelty, a status symbol for the crypto rich, and a bubble that's bound to burst. Others argue that NFTs will fundamentally change business models in the creative industries. It's early days, but there's plenty of momentum behind NFTs and blockchain. Here's what you need to know.
Synamedia's Christopher Sass, NCTA's Matt Tooley, and Streaming Video Alliance's Jason Thibeault discuss the role emerging technologies can play in streaming content protection in this clip from their panel at Streaming Media East 2019.
For something different—extremely different—check out the BitMovio beta, which aims to lure young viewers with genre content and cutting-edge payment models.
Whether ensuring creators get paid, content stays locked down, or personal data is treated like intellectual property, blockchain offers solutions to some of digital media's biggest challenges, according to a CES panel.