Paid streaming content has overtaken the media industry space, with industry incumbents like Netflix and Hulu making a significant impact on the way content is consumed throughout the world, resulting in customers transitioning from traditional cable and satellite-based models to these
paid streaming services. Originally offering consumers a way to reduce their expenses, the number of streaming platforms offering exclusive content has ballooned to the point where streaming services’ original value proposition has become eroded, with streaming bundles now reflecting pricing equivalent to previous cable contracts. With this in mind, the next disruption to the media creation space will leverage Web 3.0 principles to reflect a new continuum: free streaming media services for all.
One of Web 3.0’s primary characteristics is providing decentralized infrastructure with the goal of increasing peer-to-peer interactions, enabling more inclusion of traditionally marginalized populations in everyday digital life. Additionally, Web 3.0’s decentralized blockchain protocol will help individuals regain control over their time and data while being properly compensated, in contrast to today’s world where multinational enterprises are the ones profiting from individual consumer data.
Increased participation in content consumption leads to potential benefits for both organizations and individuals alike; therefore, individuals having formalized equitable access to content makes sense. A similar parallel is observed in the wave of lawsuits targeting peer-to-peer music sharers in the early 2000s, where companies eventually found their own ways to change their business models to adapt to consumer tastes. This resulted in the current framework of music streaming at no cost, with consumers choosing to pay for enhance features such as ad-free experiences or the ability to download music for offline use.
Free media is also important given the newfound societal emphasis of ensuring equitable access to resources for all. The ever-growing focus on equity and inclusion by increasingly younger demographics is particularly prevalent, with Gen Z making their mark specifically as the sustainability-minded generation. Free streaming media services provide a way for consumers to consume content on an equitable basis, ensuring the
inclusion of anyone throughout the world as a member of the ever-growing global community.
The Harvard Business Review describes the goal of a business as “[to] make a profit so that the business can do something more or better.” In this specific example, the boom of streaming media services has led to an increase in original content production, with consumers distinguishing between services based on factors such as content availability, originality, and prospects. In this case, a world with free streaming media services would be ad-enabled, where users watch a succession of short advertisements in exchange for formalized free content.
Some examples of comparable successes within the space include Amazon’s IMDb TV and Baidu’s iQIYI, with the former being ad-supported and the latter offering a limited experience compared to its paid premium “VIP” service. Samsung's TV Plus, also provides a free alternative for consumers wishing to watch television with no cost, though this feature involves the purchase of an actual Samsung television to access Samsung's native TV Plus service.
However, the potential of Web 3.0 is more than just consumers watching advertisements or receiving limited platform access. The world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can enable better participation within a free streaming media ecosystem. In this case, users who choose to participate and interact with advertisements can be rewarded for their actions, with the “watch-to-earn” model folding well into other “labor-to-earn” models. Through participation and interaction with advertisements, users can be rewarded on a normalized basis through digital rewards, which could then be exchanged for either tangible goods or to skip ads for a duration of time, among other things.
One important point to note is that this hypothetical free steaming media model would not involve services shuttering their paid services model. Instead, consumers can opt-in to pay streaming services for the benefit of an ad-free experience, thereby maintaining this source of revenue for large organizations. Through utilizing “watch-to-earn” models to incentivize users to watch and participate within advertisements, companies can still maintain healthy profits while providing content free-of-charge to the rest of the world.
Free-to-use social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram provide two excellent test-cases of this phenomenon. These current examples can be seen through YouTuber Donovan Price and Instagram star Wayne Colley, with both these content creators providing specific use-cases of free content that is ad-supported, ensuring benefits for the creator, the YouTube platform, and advertisers alike.
YouTuber Donovan Price, also known online as Korporate Bidness, has transformed the content creation ecosystem, with his series #BlackChicagoBeLike evolving over the past few years from 3-5 minute videos describing life in Chicago to 20-minute sagas around himself as the titular character. Korporate Bidness releases content akin to the traditional paid TV cycle, with his content releasing several times per month with a video length similar to television sitcoms.
Similarly, Wayne Colley, also known as Kountry Wayne, provides another excellent example into the free content creation space. Based in Atlanta, Kountry Wayne creates storyline-quality content on three predominant characters, weaving hilarious and relatable content in the form of himself, a hustler named Drip, old-school player named Buddy, among other characters. However, Colley’s content is released on a nearly daily basis, with these three-to-five-minute segments totaling to nearly 30 minutes of weekly content creation on multiple simultaneous storylines.
Both Price and Colley can generate revenue based on advertisements via the YouTube and Instagram platforms, monetizing their videos for profit. Additionally, both platforms benefit with an increased userbase, leading more consumers to spend time on that specific platform searching for similar content. Lastly, advertisers can still maintain profitability in this model, advertisers would potentially receive increasing amounts of revenue through the targeted nature of platform-based advertisements. This would be compounded with additional factors such as user search history, data attribution models, and other tools enabling increased
engagement with ads.
While streaming media has transitioned consumers from a paid television model to paid web services, Web 3.0 will result in the formalization of free streaming for all. Pirate sites and other informal avenues already exist for content consumption, with these platforms typically only benefiting the illegal platforms themselves, to the great annoyance of a frugal consumer forced to click through ads and advertisers preying on clickability, as opposed to actual click-through purchases. A free steaming media services model enables a better ecosystem for consumers, platforms, and advertisers alike, providing a formalized way for consumers to control their time and data, while being rewarded for watching content they enjoy.