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Blockchain could enforce accountability in media and entertainment


The shared ledger approach can help deter ad fraud and copywrite infringement

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Companies in many industries – from finance and healthcare, to automotive and retail—have been exploring blockchain technology for its possible benefits. But what’s in it for media and entertainment? What positive impact will blockchain have on existing media value chains, processes and costs? Will it help create opportunities to generate more revenue and develop new services?

The media and entertainment (M&E) industry stands to garner significant benefits from blockchain technology. The core attributes of blockchain’s shared ledger approach can help provide transparency, trust, efficiency, speed, security and control across the media supply chain for all points in a transaction process.

This is particularly important in the delivery, consumption, and payment for media content and in advertising. Moreover, blockchain can help curtail ad fraud—such as clicks made by bots instead of humans—and copyright infringement. The M&E companies that begin creating a blockchain solution now have the potential to get a step ahead of competitors.

The media supply chain, redesigned with blockchain

Blockchain creates the potential to transform how media content—such as music, video and other types of entertainment—is delivered, consumed and paid for. Current systems were not designed to manage complex, personalized content and service bundles. It is extremely difficult in today’s digital ecosystems to manage the digital rights, royalty collections and the transactions among a large number of intermediaries.

Blockchain, with its shared ledger approach, can help to improve the media supply chain and decrease copyright infringements by adding transparency, security and control. As an example, it may decrease copyright infringements in music streaming where publishers and songwriters are regularly accusing music streaming providers—such as Spotify, Napster and Pandora—of not paying all they are entitled to, missing as much as 25 percent of streaming royalties.¹

Greater transaction transparency in advertising helps eliminate waste by better identifying which intermediaries are taking a cut of the advertiser’s budget at every step in the process. Currently, only 38 to 46 cents of each advertising dollar spend ultimately reaches the intended media outlet.² Blockchain helps target the right people with more timely and relevant ads, reducing advertising load and optimizing advertising revenue.

In addition, blockchain can counter ad fraud techniques, such as bot networks and domain spoofing, that create impressions and clicks not triggered by humans. A report from Juniper Research indicates that advertisers are likely to lose an estimated USD 19 billion to ad fraud in 2018, and that this will continue to rise, reaching USD 44 billion by 2022.³

Some large media players have already started the journey with blockchain. For example, in 2018, Comcast announced the Blockchain Insights Platform with NBC Universal, Disney, Channel 4 and others to match audience datasets—without sharing data— to better plan, target, execute and measure advertising.⁴ In music, Spotify acquired the blockchain start up Mediachain Labs to work on developing better technology for connecting artists and other rights holders with the tracks hosted on Spotify’s service.⁵

Tracking ads and publishing rights

The ability to track and align truth through a standardized “smart contract” has major implications for business models. For example, if the delivery of advertising impressions and viewability is trustworthy and can be tracked, automated reconciliation and payments may be triggered according to clear terms. Similarly, if performance and publishing rights can be tracked through a trusted system of record, automated reconciliation and payments can be triggered according to the smart contract.

Blockchains can help M&E companies operate much more effectively within their business networks because they support consensus, provenance, immutability and finality, cost removal, and reduced tampering and fraud. It also contributes to enhanced data quality, increased trust, and reduction or elimination of disputes.

¹Christman, Ed. “Publishers Said to Be Missing As Much as 25 Percent of Streaming Royalties.”. Billboard. October 20, 2015. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6737385/publishers-songwriters-streaming-25-percent-royalties

²Hickman, Arvind. “Programmatic ‘tech tax’ costs 48 cents of every dollar - ANA study.” AdNews. June 20, 2017. http://www.adnews.com.au/news/programmatic-tech-tax-costs-48-cents-of-every-dollar-ana-study

³Smith, Sam. “Ad Fraud to Cost Advertisers $19 billion in 2018, Representing 9% of Total Digital Advertising Spend.” Juniper Research. September 26, 2017. https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/ad-fraud-to-cost-advertisers-$19-billion-in-2018

⁴Radcliffe, Damien and Carolyn S. Chambers. “Why Comcast is investing in blockchain (and maybe you should too).” Digital Context Next. March 29, 2018. https://digitalcontentnext.org/blog/2018/03/29/comcast-investing-blockchain-maybe/

⁵Perez, Sarah. “Spotify acquires blockchain startup Mediachain to solve musics attribution problem.” TechCrunch. April 26,2017. https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/26/spotify-acquires-blockchain-startup-mediachain-to-solve-musics-attribution-problem/


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Additional content

Meet the authors

Utpal Mangla, IBM Global Leader Watson AI, IoT, and Blockchain

Chad Andrews

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, IBM global solutions leader


Luca Marchi

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, IBM leader of the blockchain competency in the global TME Centre of Excellence


Steve Canepa

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, General Manager, IBM Global Communications Sector and Global Industry Managing Director, Telecommunications, M&E Industry Solutions


Rob van den Dam, Global Industry Leader - Telecommunications


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