A New Distribution Opportunity on the Horizon?
By Seth Shore
Cutting Out the Middle Man
Distribution is perhaps the trickiest part of making a feature film. Many projects that get all the way through post production stall out at this stage, never to see the light of day. A significant reason for this is that it still requires a hefty amount of infrastructure to make a movie available for people all over the world to purchase or rent. That difficulty could very well be changing in the next few years if the makers of LBRY have anything to say about it.
LBRY (https://lbry.io/) is the world’s first decentralized digital asset distribution network that allows a content creator to charge for the download of the content they upload. It’s actually a protocol, but more on that later. In simple terms, with LBRY you can make your movie available for anyone in the world to watch and you can set a price for viewing it.
Now, from the consumers point of view, there’s nothing revolutionary about what I just wrote. Bit-torrent peer-to-peer file sharing has been around for years and services like iTunes and YouTube already allow people rent/purchase digital films for viewing. But, from the content creators point of view, there is one very significant factor that differentiates LBRY from the competition. No middle man.
This means that transactions are 100% between the filmmaker and the viewer of the film, allowing the filmmaker to keep 100% of the profits. Nothing like this currently exists, and it could very well be a game changer, not just for filmmakers, but everyone seeking to sell digital content online. Not having to split profits with a distribution company is just the beginning though. Future development of the LBRY protocol could open the door to some particularly exciting opportunities for both the consumer and the filmmaker alike.
With the increased number of movies being produced year after year, it’s easy for a new film to get lost in the noise. This is where the ability to build on top of the LBRY protocol could make a significant impact. Niche communities may soon be able to move beyond simply identifying films they are interested in to actually curating those films onto their own channel on the web.
For example, a community that is looking for more family friendly films could establish a website which reviews and ranks films according to an agreed upon set of standards. If a film meets these standards, the LBRY link to the movie would then be added to the site, along with the review. Community members now not only have access to the review of the movie, but the movie itself, and can pay to watch it instantly. As time passes, this community could even develop its own smart TV app, essentially creating a movie channel that is as easy to use as Netflix.
So, instead of centralized services like Netflix being the gatekeepers who source, catalog, and suggest content, these decentralized niche communities would begin to fulfill that role. The filmmakers serving these niche communities would retain more profit which, in turn, will incentivize them to continue to create movies for that niche market. As the ecosystem grows, an even bigger possibility becomes available.
Filmmakers could begin to crowdsource the financing of their next project by offering a pre-sale of the film to their audience in much the same way that Kickstarter works. Essentially, filmmakers could begin to lock in the distribution of their film in the treatment stage, not with some faceless corporation but with the viewers of the movie directly, and there’s no better way to make a movie than to have the end spelled out from the beginning. In essence, the community that consumes watches the movie would also become a functioning distribution channel for that movie.
Now, this scenario will not be right for every filmmaker out there, but for many others, it could very well mean the difference between a film that returns a profit, and one that does not. This is also just one potential use case that can be built on top of the LBRY protocol. The network itself has great potential to improve the backend of such services as Netflix and Hulu, without any perceptible change to the front-end experience for the user. But, that’s a topic for a different article.
So, What Exactly Is LBRY?
Simply put, LBRY is a protocol that anyone can build on top of (much like SMTP for email or HTTP for websites) combined with a blockchain to allow for payment processing (much like bitcoin). The LBRY protocol is currently up and running and the first apps are being developed for it right now. The most notable of these is an app being developed by the LBRY team itself to showcase how an app could interact with the protocol.
This can complicate things when it comes to explaining the system, as people tend to confuse the LBRY app with the LBRY protocol. For the sake of this article, just remember that the protocol makes the apps possible while the apps are the visible part that 99.99% of people will interact with.
The LBRY app was just released for open beta on August 1st, 2017 (You can download it here: https://lbry.io/get). With the app, users can view both free and paid-for content as well as upload their own content for others to view. While the early functionality is limited feature wise, it’s already making waves. One YouTube content creator has this to say about it:
“…the math is incredible. I’ve been using the “1 cent per view gets (sic) you 5x what the best YouTubers make”.(1)
Payments are transacted via the LBRY blockchain using LBRY Credits (LBC). LBRY Credits can be acquired in one of two ways at the moment. The first is by mining (think of it as allowing your computer to contribute to the network and getting paid for it). The second is by purchasing them on a crypto currency exchange that trades in LBC and then transferring them to you LBRY wallet. Once you have LBC in your wallet, purchasing a movie is as easy as clicking a button. If a content creator wishes to convert their LBC into cash, they use one of the crypto currency exchanges to sell their LBC on the market. While obtaining LBC is still a bit cumbersome, it won’t stay that way. As both crypto currency adoption rates grow and the LBRY ecosystem evolves, purchasing content on blockchain will become as easy as buying something with one’s credit card.
It’s also worth mentioning that there have been concerns raised about LBRY increasing piracy of digital content, but these fears are largely unfounded. Bit-torrent already makes piracy as easy as it can be. Posting content to LBRY is much less anonymous than bit-torrent so people will be less interested in using the protocol to share pirated material for fear of getting caught. Add in the fact that profiting off of piracy carries with it much stiffer penalties, and the piracy concern becomes almost negligible. More on how LBRY works and how it actually might be the best answer to the piracy problem can be found here https://lbry.io/what.
Finding distribution for your independent film is hard. LBRY offers a solution that A) connects filmmakers directly with their fans, B) stands to put significantly more money into the film makers pockets by cutting out the middle man, and C) will likely provide consumers with greater access to the content they want.
Keep up to date on the LBRY project as it develops by following them on twitter (https://twitter.com/lbryio).
Editor’s Note: Seth Shore is a writer and editor by day and a blockchain/crypto currency geek by night. Seth can be found on Twitter here