Putting Hollywood on the Blockchain

screenshot-singulardtv.com 2016-06-07 15-21-38The blockchain is a hot topic in the music business these days, featured on panels at nearly every industry conference and gobbling up acres of paper and pixels in the industry press. But it hasn’t gained nearly as high a profile in the TV and film business.

That’s in part because, while Hollywood has its problems, the film and TV business isn’t nearly as broken as the music business, and movie and TV people are simply not as hungry for radical fixes as many musicians are today. Unlike the music business, where the consumer’s embrace of streaming is blamed for pushing down profit margins and diluting artists’ earnings, the popularity of video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime has sparked an explosion in scripted TV production and a boom in jobs and pay scales for actors, writers and other behind-the-camera personnel.

Even the major studios, who have watched subscription VOD services erode their once highly profitable DVD business, have benefited from re-selling back catalog to Netflix, Hulu and others.

That doesn’t mean there might not be better ways of doing business, however, or that blockchain won’t play a role in TV’s future. Startup SingularDTV is betting both will happen, in fact, and has set out to prove it.

Singular calls itself the first “blockchain entertainment studios, smart contract rights management platform, and video-on-demand portal.” Last week it announced a partnership with ConsenSys to build a rights management platform for film and television on the Ethereum blockchain.

It is also planning production on TV series called “Singular,” which is set in the near-future, in a time when human and machine intelligence are increasingly entwined, as well as a documentary series on Ethereum and related technologies.

But it’s with the blockchain-based rights management platform that SingularDTV wants to make its biggest mark.

“It’s been a long-term goal of mine to disintermediate the film and TV industry through a a rights-management platform,” Singular found/CEO Zach LeBeau told RightsTech.com. “We initially tried to do build it on the Bitcoin blockchain, but the capabilities really weren’t there. We’ve been following Ethereum from the beginning because we saw they were building in the sort of capabilities we needed.”

According to the press release announcing the partnership with ConsenSys, “S-DTV will address today’s lack of transparency and fundamentally change the prominence of creative accounting in the entertainment industry, with a particular focus on benefiting independent productions.”

The planned platform will be based on the ConsenSys rights-management prototype Ujo Music. ConsenSys found Joseph Lubin is on the SinglularDTV advisory board.

“Ujo is intended to serve as a user-owned and controlled content registration platform where usage policies can be attached for artists, consumers, promoters, venues, curators and other actors to license and use as appropriate,” Lubin said in a statement. “Licenses are created and transferred in real-time and value flows in real-time to the creators (or content owners). S-DTV’s film and television rights management model adds an important component to the Ujo ecosystem, which is building core components that will enable the emergence of a business and social network for various arts industries.”

According to LeBeau, the rights-management platform is a mid- to long-term piece of Singular’s business plan, given the time it will take to build. The more immediate goals include starting production on the TV and documentary series.

The first documentary, on Ethereum, is currently slated for release in December, while the “Singular” TV series is penciled in for June 2017.

SingularDTV has raised two seed rounds and is currently seeking to raise $7.5 million to fund production and begin development of the rights-management platform. The company had originally hoped to raise $3.5 million of that from the DAO, but those plans are on hold as the DAO undergoes a reboot.


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