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Blockchain Beguiles the European Industry Ahead of MipTV

CANNES — With France as this year’s Country of Honor, MipTV will unite several of the country’s top producers and executives, making Cannes’ Palais des Festival the center-stage for many of the conversations that have faced the local industry since the beginning of the year.

Previewing the focus of this year’s MipTV, a prominent cross-section of producers, distributors, and tech leaders met in Paris to discuss the future of digital distribution as part of UniFrance’s Rendez-vous with French Cinema this past January.

Presented in collaboration with French trade Le Film Français, the panel – called “Digital Marketing, Platforms, Blockchain & Co: Leveraging Distribution Channels for French Films Worldwide” – brought together executives Sabine Chemaly (TF1) and Alan Milligan (White Rabbit), producers Andrea Occipinti (Lucky Red), Didar Domehri (Maneki Films) and Carole Scotta (Haut et Court), distributor Claude-Éric Poiroux (Europa Cinemas) and tech consultant Clément Tequi (Accuracy).

The subject of Blockchain took center stage, as the various professionals navigated the crypto-technology’s effects on their respective fields.

Analyst Clément Tequi kicked things off by simply describing the buzzy term. “If the Internet allows for the real time exchange of information,” he explained, “Blockchain makes that exchange more instantly transactional. At the end of a transaction, one person would have the information and one wouldn’t. For the first time in economic history, we have the means to negotiate the exchange information – financial or otherwise – without the need for a third party guarantor.”

He then argued for the technology’s relevance for the film industry, noting that the technology’s inherent transparency could make for a more effective distribution marketplace, and that its transnational reach could help resolve thorny issues regarding international rights.

Vincent Florant, director of innovation at France’s Centre National du Cinema (CNC), then spoke up from the crowd and voiced optimism that the technology could help modernize the CNC’s co-production apparatus, specifically as a lure for investors outside of the film world and as a comfort for those unfamiliar with the CNC and its operations.

For White Rabbit CEO Alan Milligan, the technology could bring some order to the peer-to-peer platforms that drive digital piracy. With his White Rabbit startup, he offers a browser plug-in that surveys existing P2P networks and gives online streamers the opportunity to pay the rights holder directly, using a propriety token system to maintain online privacy.

“If we professionalize the P2P networks and make it easier and more efficient to share our films and allow people to pay for them right there,” he noted, “then we can monetize that data and share it with the rights holders.”

Producer Didar Domehri took particular interest in the potential for ‘smart contracts’ – contracts that automatically and immediately pay out once a condition has been met. “That’s the dream of all rights-holders and producers,” she quipped, but expressed reservations whether such contracts were best equipped for the complex waterfall structures common to the film world. “I really like the idea of doing things in a decentralized way, but that’s not always possible. As a producer, you always need to have someone who can guarantee.”

However she had certain concerns about the automatic payout provisions in certain cases, specifically in the case of a dispute or an unforeseen issue. “It seems like the Wild West,” she joked.

“It was the Wild West before Blockchain,” replied Milligan. “Now it’s up to us to clean it up.”

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