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Blockchains and the Media Industry: Five Trends to Watch in 2018

The last year saw the growth of a number of innovative blockchain-based projects in the media space. Startups like MadHive and Truth announced or launched platforms designed to restore transparency and fairness to the ad tech industry using blockchains. Other startups, like Po.et and Steem, leveraged blockchain technology to manage digital content. And blockchain-based media companies came together to form the AdLedger consortium.

But what’s next for blockchain technology in an industry that has shown enormous interest in adopting it?

1.     Bockchains Will Help Protect Media Consumers

To date, most blockchain projects in the media space have focused on helping people who produce or publish content.

There is clear demand, however, for platforms that will also help users by protecting their privacy when they access or share online content. Blockchains can be used to help ensure the accuracy of news, so that users can have confidence that what they read online is trustworthy. Blockchains also offer solutions for compliance with data regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which affects the ad industry — and virtually any other business that uses digital data or services.

So far, most of the use cases that utilize blockchain solutions as a way to protect people who consume media have yet to be put into practice. But this is an area in which the theoretical groundwork has already been completed: It’s primed for development in 2018.

2.     Big Media Companies Will Adopt Blockchain Technology

As is often the case with disruptive technology, most of the blockchain-based innovations in the media industry so far have been the work of startups. Established media companies have been slower to react to (or engage with) the blockchain revolution.

Don’t expect the media giants to sit around and simply let themselves be disrupted, however. Some have already started to take advantage of blockchains. Comcast is probably the most significant example: In June 2017, the company announced a new platform that lets marketers buy ads using a blockchain. (That platform won’t launch until 2018.)

The industry can expect more blockchain engagement from legacy media companies in 2018. The engagement might take the form of a consortium, similar to the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which was predominately driven by large, established companies that were reacting to the blockchain revolution. Or perhaps it will involve greater use of blockchain technology by individual companies (along the lines of what Comcast is pursuing).

3.     Blockchain Media Startups Will Fail

The blockchain media ecosystem remains small compared to the media industry as a whole. But it’s already quite crowded. There are a number of companies whose platforms or business strategies are highly similar.

This means some of those companies are likely to fail. If you have two blockchain-based platforms designed to automate ad placement, for example, one of them is going to do it more reliably or cost-efficiently than the other. The loser will probably fade away.

In 2018, expect to see some blockchain media companies fail. This won’t mean that blockchain-based media as a whole is flawed. It’s just a natural step in the evolution of any new market.

4.     Media Content Delivery Will Be Powered by Blockchains

As 2017 draws to a close, the delivery of digital content faces some big threats.

For one, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to kill net neutrality, which could make it much harder for some consumers to access digital content through traditional distribution channels.

Another threat is seemingly endless Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against content-delivery infrastructure, which have put the ability of traditional content providers to guarantee reliable access to digital media at risk.

Blockchain technology can provide a solution to these challenges. Decentralized, peer-to-peer content delivery networks that rely on a blockchain to store and distribute data are resilient against efforts to make traffic on the internet less “neutral.” They can also resist DDoS attacks by eliminating the reliance on centralized hubs — which can be attacked — for content distribution.

Companies like Livepeer are already working on platforms that leverage blockchains as a solution for decentralized content delivery. We are likely to see more startups in this niche in 2018.

5.     The Blockchain Will Power Content Development

One of the most centralized aspects of the media industry is content production. Most profit-generating digital content, such as movies and TV shows, is produced or owned by a relatively small group of media companies. In some cases — like those of TV shows produced by Netflix or Amazon — the companies that create and distribute media are one and the same.

The centralization of content production is unsurprising. Creating content is expensive and complex, especially for a large-scale production like a TV series or a movie. Traditionally, only substantial and established companies have had the resources to create content.

Blockchains could change this. Individuals could invest in content production using a blockchain. People who create content could be paid via a blockchain. Content production could be orchestrated and managed through a blockchain.

Blockchain technology has yet to be used in a major way to facilitate the creation of digital content. But disrupting the highly-centralized system through which most content is currently produced and distributed is an obvious proposition for blockchain technology.

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