TV Isn’t Dead. It’s Being Resurrected in Web3

BY Langston Thomas

December 15, 2022

The entertainment media landscape has changed immensely over the past decade. And for new generations (Gen Z and later), it’s still changing. There was a time when kids woke up to cartoons and spent their evenings watching regularly scheduled family-friendly programming, but the youth of the 2020s now take their breakfasts with a side of YouTube and their late-night snacks while binging shows on Netflix.

That’s not at all a bad thing, unless, of course, you’re in the television industry. Because in the past 10 years or so, subscriptions to video streaming services have skyrocketed while pay-TV subscriptions (cable) have fallen by 10.2 million (roughly 12 percent since late 2016). It’s becoming clear that traditional TV programming is on its way out. But what might become of the industry that defined in-home entertainment?

Well, in Web3, TV might have a shot at making a comeback, but it won’t look or feel at all like its original form. Instead, television could be reinvented on the blockchain by way of streaming technology and NFTs. Instead of ratings deciding the viability of a program, shared ownership will allow consumers to dictate what sort of content a network releases. Sound dystopian? Good.

TV, but make it Web3

With NFTs, any type of IP can be monetized. This might be common knowledge to those in Web3, but due to its implications, it’s a fact worth repeating. Essentially, the blockchain has become a place where content creators of any and all types can earn a living. And as you’ve surmised by now, this also includes those in television.

But it isn’t major networks or brands that are leading the charge in this still-niche market sector, but rather creators who cut their teeth in the industry (or in media), perhaps even gained a bit of clout, and are now trying their hands at bringing TV to the metaverse. This is best exemplified by prominent voice actor Greg Cipes.

Best known as the voice of Beast Boy on the popular animated show Teen Titans, Cipes has accrued a near cult following for his involvement in the beloved DC Comics franchise. With his wealth of knowledge of the cartoon industry, he’s created a Web3 project called the NFTV Network, a live 24/7 streaming platform that houses original cartoons and other community-generated NFT, fashion, entertainment, and news content.

With NFTV, Cipes hopes to promote a new mode of media production through the use of NFTs, which essentially power the platform. Creators who wish to air their content on the network can simply purchase an NFTV Airtime token to gain access to members-only benefits, including the ability to submit content to air on the network. And while creators can have their content aired on the 24/7 platform, they still retain all rights to their content in a nonexclusive agreement, meaning that NFTV simply promotes the content along with its own, leaving creators the ability to accept a deal if, say, Netflix were to come knocking.

With a forthcoming programming lineup for the network to feature roles and cameos from prominent names like Jamie Foxx, Pete Wentz, Danny Trejo, and more, NFTV seems poised to break new ground for entertainment ventures in Web3. But it isn’t only NFTV exploring this intersection, as several other digitally-native projects have also announced plans to create and launch blockchain-based shows and movies.

The expanding Web3 entertainment landscape

In a similar vein to NFTV, Shibuya, a decentralized storytelling project created by prominent Web3 artists Emily Yang and Maciej Kuciara, is also aiming to utilize shared ownership as a means for content creation. With the studio’s first production, White Rabbit, community members who purchase a Producer Pass NFT become the center of the Shibuya ecosystem, gaining the ability to watch each episode of the project, and at the end, vote on the direction of the next installment — akin to the interactive “choose your own adventure” form of entertainment that has become highly popular over the past few years.

While digitally native creators remain at the forefront of photography, music, film, poetry, comedy, and other new forms of art and entertainment becoming available in Web3, others from the legacy media industry have taken an interest in blockchain-based content as well. One such creator is Rick and Morty Co-Creator Dan Harmon. In a recent partnership with Blockchain Creative Labs (BCL, Fox Entertainment’s Web3 studio), Harmon is also aiming to use shared ownership as a means to create content.

With the release of a series of NFTs centered on a new animated series called Krapopolis, Harmon and BCL will grant NFT owners access to token-gated content, private screening rooms, entry to Discord channels, and more, including series voting rights (i.e., influence over the show’s direction). Considering the high-profile nature of this joint venture, the blueprint being laid out by NFTV, Shibuya, and now Krapopolis, where fans use their NFT ownership to influence the output of a network, could be a model for the future of the Web3 entertainment industry.

Shared ownership: TV’s saving grace?

While it’s easy to consider NFT media projects led by TV veterans to be a new use case for blockchain-based television, in reality, Web3 TV doesn’t really feel like “TV” at all. Although the term makes perfect sense in accompaniment with programs like Mila Kunis-backed Stoner Cats and The Gimmicks, Web3 TV has next to nothing to do with television or broadcast media.

While several endeavors have taken up the cause of bringing TV to NFTs. Web2 producers like Cipes and Kunis are on the cusp of a new form of blockchain entertainment, and one that is still largely dominated by Web3-native projects like Interleave and DeadHeads. So while it’s easy to look at NFTV and surmise that it’s simply setting the norm for a new form of television, perhaps it’s better to take a different stance and consider all Web3 media not only to be another iteration of entertainment, but as a gateway into a new paradigm of decentralized content creation, artistic empowerment, and fandom.

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