Panel: Blockchain Technology Could Be Revolutionary for Hollywood, Content Creators

A technology more frequently associated with cryptocurrency could offer exciting new opportunities for Hollywood and content creators, according to panelists speaking Feb. 6 at Digital Entertainment World in Marina Del Rey.

“There’s no doubt that blockchain is a major technology innovation on a historic scale,” said Jim Helman, CTO of studio-backed MovieLabs, on the panel “Does Hollywood Need a Blockchain?”

The technology, which offers precise, chronological data tracking, could potentially be useful to studios in combatting piracy and getting access to consumer data that currently only gatekeepers (i.e. Netflix, Amazon) can access — and that they don’t share.

“One of the potential uses of blockchain is to lower barriers of entry to other players [than these gatekeepers],” said panelist Ron Wheeler, SVP content protection and technology strategy, Twentieth Century Fox.

Digital retailers have become “gatekeepers of what consumers are interested in,” he said, adding a “potential effect of blockchain is the decentralization of access to data.”

It also could be an application for Movies Anywhere, the cloud-based digital locker service launched in October and backed by five of the six major studios.

“It’s a good potential use case [for Movies Anywhere],” Wheeler said. “Movies Anywhere was designed precisely to diminish the role of gatekeepers.”

Panelist Amorette Jones, CEO of Pivotal Entertainment, said Pivotal is set up to help the entertainment industry. She called it “the first blockchain created specifically for the needs of entertainment.”

“We’re very pro studio,” she said. “My background is studio. I understand the issues that studios have.”

She noted that blockchain can change the way data is managed and controlled.

“We’re of the opinion that consumers own their data,” she said. “The age of farming their data is over.”

When gatekeepers, who control and mine consumer data, are cut out of the process, it will benefit both content creators and consumers, panelists said.

“We created [Pivotal] to change the way that content is not only distributed on the Internet but the way the content creators and consumers can relate to one another on the Internet,” Jones said.

Through blockchain, content owners can potentially pay consumers for data and save money through more targeted marketing, she said, noting that the average marketing campaign for a film is around $50 million, mostly spent on TV advertising. If studios don’t have to spend that much, they can put more money into the product.

“What a studio can do is place bets on other movies,” she said. “They don’t have to make Marvel Man 72. It’s good for studios. It’s good for consumers.”

In the music business, Vezt is attempting to use blockchain to give musicians more control over their creations. The plan is to allow creators to benefit from their work, said Steve Stewart, CEO and co-founder of Vezt.

“I think if content is king, data is the key to the kingdom,” he said. “Artists are generally kept in the dark.”

Citing Spotify, iTunes and YouTube, he noted, “None of them share the consumer data with the creator.

“We think the creator should be in touch with the consumer. When you keep those two apart you are doing something unnatural.”

Stewart said Vezt hopes to allow creators to sell their own work, sell subsequent work and sell tickets through that connection to the fans by knowing them better. Right now, he noted, a retailer such as Best Buy, knows more about a consumer who buys an album, via credit card and other data, than the creator of that album.

“Our hope is that we can connect the consumer to the creator,” Stewart said.

While the prospect of blockchain technology may be exciting, it’s not all smooth sailing, noted Helman.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities, but there are also some challenges in adapting the technology to a particular supply chain need,” he cautioned.

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