Blockchain Tech Could Make Life Simpler for M&E, Experts Say

Eric Iverson, CIO for talent firm Creative Artists Agency (CAA), can only shake his head at how some media and entertainment companies make life harder for themselves nowadays, when it comes to sharing information within their own organization.

Speaking July 25 at Microsoft’s AI, Machine Learning and Bots event in New York, Iverson relayed a story about how a studio with both a massive networks channel and TV content distribution businesses could benefit from something like blockchain technology, or a distributed database used to continuously updated records (or blocks).

“Every time a licensing deal would happen … someone in one group would get the paper, and I’m not making this up, look up all the titles on IMDb, and go re-register those in the broadcast management systems,” he laughed. “I could see the people up there have a database with a world record of metadata and information about the exact titles they’re licensing to one floor below them.”

The transparency involved with blockchain is one of the more promising aspects of the technology, he added, especially as major Hollywood studios begin testing the waters of premium VOD. “I’m a big believer in what the technology can do for the industry, and there are plenty of opportunities for it, getting in that right space where it’s not overly [reliant on] complicated workflows,” Iverson said. “Seems like a sweet spot for multiple parties.”

Alanna Gombert, GM of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) IAB Tech Lab, and VP of technology and ad operations for IAB, added that while there’s still work to be done, IAB is extremely interested in seeing blockchain technology improve, with the group currently working on supply chain protocols for advertising, looking at how data is stored within the construct of the technology.

“The way I explain it to laypeople is it’s a place to store data, where all of the things that have been described are attributed to that storage space,” she offered. “Blockchain, if you think about it on a really basic level, is a distributed place to store things on a ledger. And then you build on that with … building blocks you can add on top of the blockchain spectrum.”

The biggest obstacle she sees thus far involves writing to those data blocks, getting the data to move back and forth in real time, something no one has cracked just yet. But she sees a future with blockchain tech where ad companies can build tokens in a blockchain system to give rewards to consumers and partners. “It’s an important value chain right now, which can be really difficult to do in our current technology stacks,” she said.

Zach LeBeau, CEO and founder of SingularDTV — a digital content distribution and management platform based on blockchain tech — said his company is close to debuting a rights management gateway that provides a blockchain-based interface that allows producers, investors and other film stakeholders to control and manage the rights and royalty revenue flow of their IP.

He sees blockchain solving all sorts of issues with data, saying the tech would allow for the convergence of data and network, putting the two in the same space. For example, today, a merchant selling their wares on Amazon, one with a long history of positive sales, would go to eBay and wouldn’t be able to bring that digital identity with them automatically, and would have to start from scratch, he said. “That’s because there’s no convergence between data and network, and blockchain solves that problem,” LeBeau said.

“The revolutionary thing about blockchain technology is it’s all about the consensus algorithm, which allows the distributed ledger, which is the blockchain, for everyone to have the exact same copy of that ledger,” he added. “Transparency and immutability are the cornerstones of the technology.

“You can digitize it, tokenize it, and program it to receive the revenue of what you’re spending on it,” he added. “All the time right now we’re telling people to go watch this movie or this TV show out of the goodness of our heart. If it’s tokenized, and they go watch that show, we’re [lending value] to the token that we’re holding.”

More than 300 people in the media and entertainment sector attended the inaugural Microsoft Media & Entertainment Day, which included the AI, machine learning and bots event, along with tracks on content protection, metadata, and video in cloud.