Mumbai: Web3 promises to be the renaissance for how we use internet services. It is fundamentally an idea for a more open, decentralised, and secure internet, governed by anti-monopoly and pro-privacy norms. Naturally, the scale and allure of OTT services’ revenue and seemingly insatiable demand make it a prime industry to attempt to ‘disrupt’. The proposition boils down to ‘what value addition does this new technology and ownership structure bring’. It’s an idea we have experimented with for a few years now being on both 1.0 and 2.0 versions of the web.
Web3 splitting the pie
There are broadly three models that can exist at scale with web3 characteristics—one, where users are owners [I own a piece of Netflix and I watch it], two, where creators are owners [the studios or the producers or the individuals], and three, where ownership is split between creators, users, and intermediaries [marketers, platforms, other intermediaries, etc.]. Depending on the market this hypothetical business operates in, some of the business models become viable based on the negotiable split amongst these many stakeholders.
Cutting the middlemen
The promise of web3 essentially posits ‘cutting the middlemen’ who supposedly ‘do not add value to the flow of creation to consumption, or at least reduce their ‘cut’. "Hey, why is the app store taking 30 per cent?" and "Wait, XYZ label makes millions of dollars off her song, but my favourite artist lives in a rented house?" are the kinds of questions that can be approached two ways. First, since the relationship between creator and consumer is paramount, and since the audience makes someone famous by consuming created content, the value should primarily be distributed between these two.
Second, stars and hits are made, not born. So, the backers, marketers, technology developers, and distributors (who work thanklessly behind the stage, risking their time and money) deserve a large part of the credit (aka value).
Therefore, the model of web3 works well for already established creators who can rely on fanfare and loyalty to create subsequent work. However, they will have to choose between their audience’s capital or the existing pool of professional backers. They do acknowledge that the former carrier risks additional work in raising capital, but with the benefit of doing it on their own terms.
For the new and upcoming creators, it offers them better terms, but at the risk of losing mainstream system support that has proven its success so far.
Race to the start
There is now an increasing list of examples of creators across movies, music, social media content, and TV experimenting with the web3 path, which has led to a crop of new web3-only services. Even incumbent studios, distributors, and platforms are making investments in web3 businesses. Following sufficient examples, existing incumbents will further adapt to offering web3-based models as well.
The fact remains that the entertainment industry overall has very clear risk-reward profiles. If creators take the risk simultaneously with their hopeful audience, they can all potentially gain from it, but will then be on opposite sides of the table. And to create what we deem "hits," large-scale distribution is still a professional industry, the providers of which will always demand a high fee for their services.
The web3 model's adoption will thus grow at the rate that the creators are willing to take it—and help create more stars and hits than the "industry" has allowed since it offers an alternative path to grow. To the end audience, for any type of content, the key criteria remain quality, price, and on-demand. Adding the proposition of being an earning shareholder makes the deal sweeter depending on the potential earnings. What could eventually emerge is a model where audiences contribute to a diversified pool of creators of their choice, while creators will choose who provides intermediary services to them. Some may argue that this is not too different from existing models, but the creatives are pathbreakers by nature.
The author of the article is Vistas Media Capital & Fantico chief strategy officer Dhruv Saxena.