Editor’s Note: Welcome to NewBay’s inaugural edition of Need to Know, where we explain complex topics and how they apply to each industry we serve, on our websites and in our magazines. Keep coming back for future topics, to include 5G, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and more.
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the media industry in the same ways that the internet did 20 years ago. In its basic terms, blockchain technology encrypts data in an open, unsecured “decentralized ledger” environment, allowing a more direct path for transactions between users that are not tied to the traditional banking/credit industries. Bitcoin, the most well-known type of blockchain technology involves the use of “cryptocurrency” to initiate financial transactions, while “ethereum” uses several exchange methods, including bitcoin, but also offers “smart contracts” that expand the use of blockchain beyond just monetary transactions.
The television and media industry as a whole, can benefit from using blockchain technology in several ways — through advertising, distribution and content creation and verification. Whether the goal is better security and customer privacy or more flexibility, the end game is the same: eliminating — or at least lessening the impact of — the “middleman.”
Blockchain is already a reality for many advertisers in the media industry. Later this year, Comcast plans to launch its new Blockchain Insights Platform, in collaboration with NBCUniversal, Disney, Altice USA, Channel 4, Cox Communications, Mediaset Italia and TF1 Group, which, according to the company, is aimed at “better ad planning, targeting, execution and measurement across screens.” The company says its service will help advertisers better target audiences by enhancing reporting and attribution metrics and that the “decentralized ledger” characteristics of blockchain encryption technology will improve subscriber privacy.
On the distribution side, some pundits are predicting that blockchain could mean the end for what many consider the “ultimate middleman,” the pay TV (cable and satellite) industries. Whether that will happen is up for debate, but for the immediate future, media companies are looking to the protocol to help battle the incessant piracy that comes with digital distribution. According to Phil Gomes, blockchain leader at Edelman, “I personally believe that a lot of piracy comes from friction in the legal distribution mechanisms. Blockchain technology can enable more frictionless monetization of content to better compete with pirates.”
Media companies are also looking to blockchain to enable more secure rights payments. An example of this is the Open Music Initiative, which includes more than 200 members, including Sony Music, Warner, YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, with the goal of improving royalty payment transactions. The OMI recently disclosed that it is considering using blockchain “to radically simplify the way music rights owners are identified and compensated, resulting in sustainable business models for artists, entrepreneurs and music businesses alike.”
Blockchain could also be used to combat “fake news.” In a recent column for the Wall Street Journal, Mounir Ibrahim, vice president of strategic initiatives for Truepic and a former U.S. foreign services officer noted that blockchain encryption methods could be used to hold politicians accountable in an environment where artificial intelligence can be used to create realistic videos of individuals saying things they never really said.
“The ability to authenticate the provenance of digital media could do more than enable documentation of atrocities,” he wrote. “It could help international efforts to monitor elections, fight fraud, audit supply chains and enforce anticorruption methods. It could also provide a defense against new technology that lets users manipulate and doctor videos in a way that looks real.”
By now, we’re familiar with the concept of crowdfunding new projects, companies or products through such services as KickStarter. But blockchain can play an important role in expanding the role of such services in the future. Through the use of “smart contracts” enabled by ethereum, participants can arrange transactions that would allow contributors to go beyond just donating to development of new programming to becoming active investors. Proponents claim that this methodology could help break the stranglehold that large movie studios have on what gets greenlighted in Hollywood.
A recent example of this type of project is the use of ethereum to crowdfund the new movie “Braid.” The film’s producers recently told the Huffington Post: “It’s definitely been interesting going this road of essentially breaking ground, and breaking the studio system by putting more power into the audience themselves. Giving them a choice to be able to participate and be involved in the process as a whole. It’s like uncharted territory.”
While the immediate impact of blockchain technology is being felt at the larger corporate levels of media, it may not be long before the benefits of the protocol are felt throughout the media distribution chain.
Need to Know More?
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- Blockchain and Media [Multichannel News]
- Blockchain and Video Production [Creative Planet Network]
- Blockchain and Radio [Radio World]
- Blockchain and AV [AVNetwork.com]
- Blockchain and Residential Integration [Residential Systems]
- Blockchain and Pro Audio [Pro Sound News]
- Blockchain and Education [Tech & Learning]
- Blockchain and Retail [TWICE]
- Blockchain as a Platform [Sound & Video Contractor]