Why Hollywood loves cryptocurrency, NFTs, and the blockchain

Delayed three times since spring of 2020, No Time to Die—the 25th James Bond movie—finally premiered in London earlier this month, taking in $119 million in its international debut. It marked not only the return of the movie theater experience to much of the world, but also a glimpse at the future role of technology in facilitating global entertainment distribution.

From merchandise to receiving financing through crypto- and blockchain-based production, studios can better cater to filmmakers, retailers, and moviegoers by modernizing their approach to production and distribution. No Time to Die signals the first time a major Hollywood production has received such backing, but further crypto-based financing for other Hollywood projects in general has the potential to upend the entertainment industry.

In particular, MGM represents a vanguard in the entertainment industry. The company—which Amazon agreed to acquire for $8.45 billion last May—has already been collaborating with technology leaders to reach a wider audience and better monetize its properties. Early in 2021, it announced a partnership with Eluvio and its Content Fabric platform to support MGM’s distribution of screeners, prerelease screenings on local devices, and marketing and licensing support. Eluvio’s recent breakthroughs in blockchain security for content streaming are enabling media companies to expand monetization efforts beyond traditional barriers, with greater levels of personalization and rights control. MGM is also one of several recent media companies to explore the viability of NFT distribution to support their IPs, partnering with VeVe to distribute digital collectibles for No Time for Die.

Blockchain technology is positioned to potentially transform “several processes within the media and entertainment industry for content security, license & rights management, digital advertising, and royalty distribution,” according to a recent report from Industry Research on the blockchain’s impact on the media business. With crypto and blockchain, the movie and entertainment industry is poised to reinvent its business functions, facilitating secure, transparent, and traceable transactions across the market.

The world’s largest media companies have endured a string of significant issues in recent years, among them surges in piracy, the challenge of fully monetizing streaming platforms, and the cratering of the box office because of COVID-19. According to Industry Research’s report, “With the help of blockchain technology, media, and advertising enterprises are able to eliminate fraud, reduce costs, and increase transparency within critical and time-consuming business processes. Further, blockchain technology helps the media and entertainment companies to effectively protect Intellectual Property (IP) rights.”

Piracy and access remain the greatest risks to the entertainment industry. Blockchain technology that enables secure delivery of content, and crypto-based investments that support independent filmmakers at scale are set to transform how media is both created and distributed. As a result, the global crypto and blockchain market size in the media and entertainment industry is expected to reach $1596.3 million by 2027, up from $466 million in 2020.

Big potential, big money

As managing partner of Parkpine Capital, an early-stage post-revenue venture capital fund, I’m already seeing the effects of the growing interest in crypto-based entertainment investments. Our own fundraising for $175 million to be allocated to seed and Series A startups is about to close, and we’ll be launching a private investment syndicate with an investment capacity of over $3 billion to back the tech-based entertainment industry.

We’re seeing that studio executives and their tech-fund managers are keen to explore acquisitions of blockchain/crypto-backed entertainment startups that will speed up international distribution of films and products. In the independent film market, funding is scarce and investors are generally skittish due to the high risk of such endeavors. The implementation of NFTs and the democratization of development through crowdfunding is an opportunity for all artists, but especially for the independent film landscape. For both major studios and independent filmmakers, crypto/blockchain investments are enabling greater flexibility, reduced labor costs, and streamlined production processes. By reducing risk, crypto is enabling more opportunities throughout the industry.

At the consumer level, AMC recently announced it will start accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash payments from customers. And as many companies dip into crypto, some like DraftKings, Funko, and Liquid Media are experimenting with pop-culture and sports-oriented NFTs. The increased adoption of crypto-transactions by supporting industries will likely lead to evolving relationships between studios, investors, and creators.

This appetite for crypto-based backing will grow, even as China—the world’s largest market for film entertainment— has started to crack down on cryptocurrencies and the entertainment industry. China recently banned crypto as part of a series of sweeping bans on everything from superhero movies to video games and representations within media. While these restrictions on content and currency in China may look like a potential roadblock to widespread crypto implementation, and the country will continue to flex its financial muscles, it’s not quite so simple. China’s anti-crypto efforts are part of much broader measures the country is imposing on its financial systems in general, in an attempt to reduce risk in the system and stabilize growth that has been exponential in recent years. There are limits to what those restrictions will be able to do (we’re already seeing some flexibility), with the country permitting the blockchain-backed No Time to Die to premiere on October 29.

With blockchain technology already making inroads throughout the industry, we’re on the precipice of seeing a shift in how technology impacts and influences Hollywood and entertainment in general. Down the road, California venture capital firm a16z could be winning Academy Awards instead of Columbia Pictures or Warner Bros. We’re optimistic about this potential and expect fundraising for multicultural collaborative-entertainment projects to accelerate by at least tenfold in the next several years.

Despite recent turbulence in the markets, likely impacted at least partially by China’s regulator crackdown, crypto and the revolutionary blockchain technology behind it are here to stay. What we’re seeing right now may delay what comes next, but change is coming nonetheless. Just as audio technologies ushered in the Golden Age of Hollywood, crypto and blockchain are positioned to inspire awe and passion among filmmakers and viewers alike.

Ahmed Shabana is a venture capitalist, startup advisor, and investor. As managing partner for Parkpine Capital, founder of Global Ventures Summit, and creator of The Hungry Company, he helps founders to scale startups beyond borders.

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