like Netflix disrupted cable television by making it cheap and easy to stream
TV shows online. Now,
streaming TV itself is being disrupted by the blockchain. Startups are
leveraging blockchain technology to solve the pitfalls of traditional video
The Challenges of Streaming TV
streaming platforms like Netflix and YouTube have become massively popular
over the past decade — so much so that a fair number of customers have discarded traditional television entirely, in part because online streaming is an attractive
reasons why are clear: Online streaming platforms are inexpensive or free.
They’re also convenient because they can be accessed from anywhere where users
have an internet connection. You don’t have to be at home to watch TV when you
today’s mainstream video streaming platforms are not perfect. They suffer from
several significant disadvantages from the perspectives of both content
producers and viewers:
inefficiency. With a
platform like Netflix, you pay the same amount whether you watch a few
hours of TV each month or hundreds. This is inefficient from a cost
standpoint for users.
content producers. On a platform
like Netflix or YouTube, content producers may not retain ownership of the
content that streams across the platform. They also lose out on revenue
because the platform takes a significant share. In the case of platforms
that rely heavily on user-generated content, like YouTube, most content
producers make virtually no money.
and startup cost. Content
producers and users who are unhappy with their existing streaming TV
options are not usually in a position to create an alternative platform.
Building a traditional streaming TV solution from scratch is a very
expensive and technically complex endeavor. It requires significant
investment in centralized servers that can host content, the development
of a sophisticated software framework and more.
- Privacy. If you publish video content on a streaming
platform, your ability to protect your identity is limited. You can
publish under a pseudonym, of course, but that doesn’t mean other users
can’t trace you. And the company that controls the platform (such as
YouTube) knows a lot of identifying information about you because it
forces you to create an account, can track your location and so on. The
platforms also track viewers in order to serve them ads.
short, cost, control over content and privacy all function in less-than-ideal
ways on the streaming TV platforms that have developed over the past decade.
Blockchain Solutions for Streaming TV
number of startups are leveraging blockchain technology to address the
challenges outlined above. Examples include:
- Stream. This streaming content platform
automatically pays content producers in cryptocurrency, using Ethereum as
its backbone. Viewers can also tip content producers. The idea is to incentivize
and reward excellent content. And by orchestrating payments through the
blockchain, the platform is able to offer minimal transaction fees and
freedom from lock-in.
- Viewly. This project describes itself as a
“decentralized YouTube.” Its model is similar to that of Stream, described
above. Viewers pay content producers in cryptocurrency. Content producers
can also earn income through sponsorship deals, subscription services and private
- Livepeer. The Livepeer open-source project is building
a media server that can deliver streaming video, as well as a protocol to
connect Livepeer nodes together. Users pay for broadcasting using a platform
token and they can earn tokens by serving the network through work such as
transcoding video on their computers. Livepeer’s goal is to build a
totally decentralized streaming content platform.
- Flixxo. This blockchain-based content
sharing network relies on peer-to-peer video sharing via the BitTorrent
protocol, rather than traditional streaming, but it still offers a way for
content producers to distribute videos and for viewers to access them. By
removing the need for a centralized video server, Flixxo lowers the cost
and overhead of delivering content. Viewers pay for what they watch using
are just some examples of blockchain startups that are pioneering a new way of
streaming video content without the centralized, non-private structures of
traditional TV streaming. These platforms are new and still being developed;
for the time being, conventional streaming sites, such as YouTube and Netflix,
will stick around. But the inefficiencies of mainstream video streaming
services are ripe for disruption by the blockchain and change is on its way.