Content & Blockchain: The New-age Partners

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Can blockchain be the media & entertainment industry’s answer to piracy and lack of trust? Many believe so 

In 2016, three school friends sat together and discussed lack of transparency in the media and entertainment business. National award-winning filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, of Gangs of Wasseypur fame, was one of them. “We were discussing the industry’s problems, how middlemen siphon off millions…,” Kashyap recalls. “(In this internet age) no one gets to know who is watching the film and where,” he adds.

What if there was a way to track everytime a piece of content, be it a film, an ad, a song, or anything else is consumed? Some say blockchain, which has a troubled reputation because of cryptocurrencies, is the way ahead. In fact, some early blockchain pilots were done in banking and finance. “But those industries are very regulated,” says Kashyap’s school friend, Nitin Narkhede, Founder and CEO of MinersINC, which launched myNK, a blockchain-based video streaming platform this year.

Kashyap, who is also a part of myNK, and Narkhede wanted to bring foreign films to India, and put them on a secure platform, where transactions would run over blockchain. “These movies don’t find distributors as they don’t get a theatrical release, and as a result often fall prey to piracy,” he says.

Foreign film distributors agree. “India loves cinema. However, we have never been able to have our films distributed in India before. Now, we have a chance,” says Orly Ravid, Founder and Co-executive Director, The Film Collaborative, a California-based film distributor.“Transparency is a must in our business and we do report to our own licensors with our ambitions and results,” says Esther van Messel, Founder & CEO of Switzerland-based First Hand Films.

Blockchain allows participants to share a ledger that is updated every time a transaction happens, making it reliable, authenticated and verifiable. Digital contracts on blockchain prevent misuse by eliminating unnecessary participants or transactions. “In blockchain, a set of data like author’s information, terms and conditions, who gets access, and potential revenue models sit in a contract,” says Deepak Visweswaraiah, Senior VP and MD, NetApp India. “For every transaction, it runs through the entire chain to ensure that there are no leaks and breaks.”

Globally, companies are warming up to blockchain. Comcast, in 2018, announced its Blockchain Insights Platform with NBC Universal, Disney, Channel 4 and others to match audience datasets (without sharing data), and plan, target, execute and measure advertising. Spotify acquired the blockchain start-up Mediachain Labs to develop better technology to connect artists and other rights holders with the tracks hosted on the streaming app. For myNK, blockchain opens a Pandora’s box. Users can become micro distributors, sell tickets and earn money, part of which goes to the filmmaker. It also allows influencers to curate content, like their personal playlist, for their followers to watch. Even if the movie is downloaded and shared, the filmmaker doesn’t lose money.

So, does a decentralised peer-to-peer network of artists and audience, work better in terms of compensation and distribution? “Blockchain brings disintermediation to a middleman system, in which intermediaries sit between artists or creators and audience or consumers,” says Agnelo Marques, VP & Head of Blockchain Centre of Excellence at Mphasis. “Blockchain can also help protect intellectual property rights.”

According to IBM Institute of Business Value, blockchain may decrease copyright infringements in music streaming where publishers and songwriters accuse music streaming providers such as Spotify, Napster and Pandora, of not paying royalties of as much as 25 per cent. “Each hash belongs to one piece of content – song, movie, or an ad – and every time the content is accessed, the creator gets to know,” says Jitan Chandanani, IBM’s Blockchain Leader (India and South Asia).  Industry veterans like Ray Kasbarian, CEO, ZYPLine are using blockchain to give businesses a digital identity through content management. “Half of the world’s population doesn’t have internet, but most of them have a mobile connection… we can close the gap,” he says.

ZYPLine, globally and in India, is aggregating agents who will create content for anyone who wants a digital presence. The agents will help in creating the content, upload it on the ZYP platform, and connect it to the person’s phone number. Anyone who wants to view the content just needs to put the phone number on ZYPLine.  “Blockchain gives ease of global control and allows tokenising a mobile number. We have a user who took six photos of watch bands, and put them on different pages and posted on ZYPLine,” explains Kasbarian. “Each page, connected to the same mobile number, became a separate url, and was linked to Amazon. Click on the watch and you can buy it. We call it flyer ecommerce.” 

“For content creators... blockchain can provide more control over their work, more flexible licence models, a greater share of the content revenue, and faster monetisation,” says Anastasia Vestfal, Director of Marketing and Media at 1WorldOnline, a blockchain-powered platform that unifies data and content.

“For record labels, publishing companies, performing rights organisations, and others, embracing blockchain-driven technology could help aggregators concentrate on activities where they can add real value (like discovering new talent, financing projects like movies and TV shows, and providing promotion and marketing).”

This article has been written by Sunny Sen from Times Group. 

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