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PERSPECTIVE

Entertainment (de)central

By Ashley Turing 23-11-2017

Heard of blockchain? Don’t worry if you haven’t – the vast majority of people in entertainment are still blockchain virgins. Actually, the vast majority of the world. But there are good reasons why the entertainment industry should get to grips with this particular technological game-changer, and sooner rather than later.

Here’s why. We all know VoD is the future. We all know that viewers are rewriting the rules of engagement and that access to choice is improving by the day. But we also know these changes are throwing up as many challenges as opportunities, for both viewers and entertainment professionals.

Chief among these challenges are the centralised internet giants, which are busy disrupting the entertainment space. For me, a particularly troubling aspect is ‘personalised content.’ It works like this: SVoD platforms gather data from users’ viewing habits, which they then use to rate actors, directors and even things like romance levels, plot conclusiveness and the ‘moral status’ of characters to judge whether a piece of content is worthy of transmission.

These user-data-based scoring systems have a single objective in mind: to make more money by locking-in content rights. This is dangerous. It’s a textbook example of short-term gain versus long-term pain. In return for a tempting stack of cash, you effectively lose control of your IP, which ends up being locked into a centralised system in perpetuity. You won’t be told how your content is ranked or who’s watching it because these ‘intelligent’ system statistics are secret. That’s allowed, because centralised monoliths are answerable to no one except their shareholders. And this lack of transparency, yoked to the distraction of big, quick money, is an addictive opiate.

I believe that, in order to compete with overlords of the internet, we need to change the game. We need to create a new marketplace that’s fairer, more efficient and more transparent – one that rewards the makers and consumers of content, not just shareholders.

Enter blockchain, an incorruptible digital ledger of contractual transactions that everyone on the network can see. The basic building block of decentralisation, blockchain harnesses the power of mass collaboration to enable you to create secure, peer-to-peer contracts without the need for a third-party – Netflix, Facebook, Google – to manage it and, significantly, profit from it.

In terms of entertainment, decentralisation has the potential to reinvent several key areas of our business. Top of the list is digital rights management. It turns out that blockchain is very good at managing digital rights, because the information contained in an open ledger cannot be tweaked, retrofitted, manipulated or erased. It is permanent and immutable. This means your IP transactions can be traced, proved and monitored end to end. It also means producers can raise funds for a production based on the IP licensing terms – terms that can be tracked all the way to the consumer.

Blockchain also opens up new ways of funding and distributing content. Financiers receive a percentage share of any profits generated by the content they back and help out to the market. And by harnessing the network effect, online communities can also participate in content creation, effectively commissioning the content they want to watch and owning a share of it.

Another game-changing aspect of the blockchain economy are smart contracts. The legal underpinnings involved in producing, financing and distributing content are complex and costly. Thanks to the blockchain ledger, the essential process of defining what needs to be accomplished, by when and for how much, can be set out quickly, transparently, securely, directly and, most importantly, at a fraction of the cost. It’s like an IMDB dating service with consumers thrown in.

Then, of course, there’s the money. Fiat currencies – dollars, pounds, euros – are the tokens we currently use to drive our centralised economic systems. But there’s a different token that could be used, one that hands back control and profit to creatives, not corporates. If you’ve heard of blockchain, chances are it’s in connection with Bitcoin. Don’t let that put you off. Think of Bitcoin as an app that uses blockchain technology. Simply put, what blockchain offers is a peer-to-peer mechanism of trust. Technology is only ever a tool and the blockchain is no different.

A couple of years ago, we set up a new reward-based crowdfunding site for film and TV called Livetree and in the last six months it has crowdfunded some 120 creative content projects. LiveTree ADEPT (Advanced Decentralised Entertainment Platform for Transparent distribution) is our next-generation platform built on the blockchain. 

LiveTree’s Seed is the new digital token that underpins this community-powered, decentralised platform, which reimagines the entire process of content creation, funding and distribution. You will still raise dollars, pounds and euros to make your projects, pay for them and profit from them. Seed, whose value is created through demand driven by its repurchase from the secondary market, is simply the financial mechanism that supports LiveTree ADEPT, helping to incentivise the community to develop the platform and strengthen its reach, power and scope.

So that’s the plan. It might just be possible to take back control after all.

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today's correspondent

Ashley Turing Founder and CEO

Ashley is responsible for the overall vision, culture and delivery of LiveTree, guiding its strategic objectives, architecture and expansion into the market. He has worked for Credit Suisse, RBS and UBS in the areas of artificial intelligence for regulatory compliance through trade surveillance. Having acquired an acute understanding of the weaknesses in the current global economy first hand, Ashley launched LiveTree as an alternative sustainable model for economic development.

Ashley studied computer science in Seattle before starting his career at Microsoft. He then went on to work with the founder and inventor of Winamp. Upon his return to Europe, Ashley became the chief technology officer at an online charitable lottery gaming company.

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