Disrupting OTT video: video on the blockchain

Twenty years after the first live video stream online, OTT video is finally disrupting television — cable, satellite, and over-the-air. OTT video technology is now a “whole product solution” that has crossed the adoption lifecycle chasm from early adopters to the early majority customers.

Not only are innovators like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon thriving, but forward thinking traditional media companies are eagerly catching up, such as Disney, AT&T, Comcast, and Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG). The maturity of the space is evidenced both by technology companies buying content, as well as content companies buying technology, as I wrote about in my last post.

But just as OTT video technology reaches the “attitude & adoption equilibrium,” another technology has fascinated the innovators, leading it to the peak of the hype cycle: Blockchain for video!

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Cryptocurrency prices may have peaked during the bubble last December, but blockchain is somewhere on the hype cycle curve, and innovators are relentless in their search for the best use cases for it. As it turns out, thanks to streaming media’s entirely digital delivery, it’s the perfect candidate. A Blockchain 101 explanation is out of the scope of this post (check here), but you can imagine a torrent site like ThePirateBay — except that the production studios are onboard with it as a distribution method, and the value generated from e-commerce purchases and/or ad-views can be allocated properly between torrent peers and rights owners. In related news, BitTorrent was just purchased by the founder of Tron, a cryptocurrency with $2.5B market cap.

With blockchain and web 3.0, decentralized peer-to-peer distribution can be complimented by the ability to transfer value as easily as web 2.0 transferred media.

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Television evolved to OTT video thanks to the shift of intelligence from the network to the edge — smart devices. The rise of OTT video saw the rise of multi-platform app development companies and platforms. But video on the blockchain can go over-the-top of over-the-top video (meta-OTT, if you will). OTT video commoditized television network distribution (see vMVPDs), and blockchain will commoditize video application platforms. Web 3.0’s magic lies in shifting the intelligence from the application layer to the protocol layer.

test2“On the blockchain, you don’t need to deploy any centralized servers, which means that there’s no single point of failure. If your whole stack is decentralized, there is no trusted third party involved making it censorship resistant, and your database is publicly verifiable. As the new paradigm offers opportunity to publicly share data, we observe a supreme advantage to decentralizing databases. This is the future we’re building towards on the Blockchain— where information and power are distributed systematically by cutting out the middleman.” Building for the Blockchain

At the 2016 Consensus hackathon I tried to create a decentralized OTT application, called dOTT. Two years later, enough web 2.0 infrastructure have developed parallels in web 3.0 platforms and protocols, to make the development of such an application trivial.

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Now, more than a dozen blockchain-video startups are disrupting OTT video. The disruptor is already the disrupted. Some focus on distribution while others push the limits by replacing the entire video delivery chain — from production, to rights management, distribution, and monetization. They create their own parallel ecosystem to the existing video industry — reminiscent of early Netflix, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber — unthreatening… until they aren’t.

testMany of these have working apps which you can download on iOS & Android today. These aren’t just whitepapers with dubious ICO plans (well, maybe some are). It may be another ten years before mass adoption, but if your app or service can be reduced to a protocol, watch out for this list of top 15 video blockchain disrupters:

  1. PROPS by YouNow:* A decentralized ecosystem of video applications backed by Union Square Ventures, Venrock, Comcast Ventures. “Rize is a social media app that leverages PROPS’ many-to-many video infrastructure. It enables everyone on the platform to engage real-time and gain upvote curation power, content trending boosts, and status for their contributions to the growth of the network.”Rize App, the first app on PROPS
  2. Current:* An incentivized, blockchain-enabled streaming ecosystem that lets you choose how to stream and pay for your media. “Current is creating an in-app credit system… to uniquely reward a person’s data, time, and attention shared during the media streaming experience… By consolidating popular media networks into one place, the Current Network has already provided more than 900,000 users with a more convenient search and discovery experience.” – Current whitepaper
  3. Popchest: The premiere decentralized video sharing platform. “POP Network is able to leverage micropayments and tokenized systems of reward to form a new video sharing economy where all participants are compensated for the part they play in growing the network. Through this token-driven economy, behaviors that support the community can be incentivized. Community members also can play an active role in governance by using tokens to support their interests within the ecosystem.”Valerian Bennet, CEO
  4. SingularDTV: Laying foundation for Decentralized entertainment industry: P2P interaction between the artist directly with their audience, no middlemen no intermediaries no gatekeepers. “I see this as the future — decentralize or die. Integrate decentralized computing into your platform or become extinct. It could take 10 years before Netflix knows it’s dead, perhaps longer before it’s proven true, but every version of my future reality tells me this is so.”Zach LeBeau, CEO
  5. Livepeer: Decentralized live-streaming, built on the Ethereum blockchain. P2P video. Democratized. “Livepeer is owned and run by the participants in the network. This paradigm empowers you to participate in the world economy, monetize your time, and get your truth out to the world.”
  6. VideoCoin: Video infrastructure for the blockchain-enabled internet. “Utilizing the same philosophy as the sharing economy, miners will simply store video on their excess disc space and stream it with their excess bandwidth. This process will have the ability to lower the cost of distributing video.”Halsey Minor, VideoCoin investor
  7. Flixxo: Community based video distribution. A social economy based on video sharing. “We are aiming to create a decentralized video distribution network, where users will be the owners and beneficiaries of their content. Flixxo eliminates intermediaries by letting advertisers, viewers, and content creators engage with each other directly”
  8. Slate: The development of a decentralized entertainment ecosystem powered by blockchain technology. “The Slate EcoSystem is comprised of: Binge – a streaming blockchain video on demand platform (BVOD); Slatix – a tokenized ticketing application; Slate – a digital currency designed for mainstream adoption.”
  9. Bond: A professional film platform on blockchain. “…A decentralized video streaming service and crowd-investing platform for the Film and Video Industry, based on the transparent cryptocurrency economy.”
  10. ATMChain: Attention Token of Media, the world’s leading decentralized, digitized smart media platform. “ATMChain takes digital media advertising as the core. Based on blockchain network, it covers the digital media culture ecology of the industries like ticketing, cinema, cultural entertainment, sociality… media screens, aiming to create top-ranking digital media culture ecology.”
  11. BlockCDN: A distributed CDN platform based on blockchain technology. “Let the idle equipment run and become CDN supplier. PC, set-top box, cell phone all can be CDN sharers, and gain a return. Industries such as video, live, and online games will greatly reduce their cost of CDN service.”
  12. Stream project: Shut down in May 2018, during the research for this article. Unfortunate but understandable, as regulations are still being determined in this space. However, interestingly, they have made their code open source on GitHub.
  13. Viuly: a video sharing platform, where authors are paid for their content, and users are rewarded for watching free videos! “Authors sell access to their premium content, receive donations from users and earn from in video ads. Users watch free videos and get rewards. Advertisers place ads and pay directly to our users.Advertising budgets are distributed amongst content creators and users. No more middlemen!”
  14. Lino: building a decentralized autonomous content economy. “In this economy, content value can be recognized efficiently, and all contributors can be incentivized in a more direct and effective manner that helps promote long-term economic growth for individual creators and for content creation generally.”
  15. Paratii: A distributed curation protocol and streaming engine. “Microeconomic fairness for all network participants. Monetize with subscriptions, access tokens, or the way you invent. Engage audiences by letting them earn while watching.”
  16. Theta: Next generation video delivery powered by you. “Theta’s innovation is set to disrupt today’s online video industry much in the same way that the YouTube platform did to traditional video back in 2005. One of our biggest challenges had been the high costs of delivering video to various parts of the world, and this problem is only getting bigger with HD, 4K and higher quality video stream. I’m excited to be part of the next evolution of the streaming space, helping Theta create a decentralized peer-to-peer network that can offer improved video delivery at lower costs.” – Steve Chen, Co-Founder of YouTube

In the coming years, OTT will continue to dominate due to its maturity, better content, and higher quality. But just as early adopters of Netflix put up with limited content library and lower quality just to have an alternative to cable, some enthusiasts will make the trade-off.

Robot_Witbe_PopCornFrom a quality perspective, there is an interesting opportunity to integrate quality of service, quality of delivery, and quality of experience at the protocol level. Imagine a future where Witbe robots, which measure quality of experience (QoE) without referential, and generate a video MOS score, can act as oracles tied to smart contracts. The automated inputs of the robots (video MOS score of 1 out of 5) could inform smart contracts which would only charge viewers based on the quality of delivery — making possible an enforceable SLA protecting the consumer’s rights. If there were an outage like Comcast had last week, you wouldn’t need to complain to customer care, your bill would be automatically adjusted for it.

Further Reading:

* Disclaimer: As a limited partner in Translunar One crypto-hedge fund, my investment portfolio may include PROPS and Current.