This week, ROW8 announced its acquisition of Rad, bridging the gap between Hollywood studios, smart contracts and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the BSV blockchain. The deal creates a unique combination of content and delivery that looks beyond today’s distribution pipelines, offering new avenues for creators large and small.
ROW8 launched several years ago as a subscription-free movie streaming service that offered consumers access to both fresh hits and catalog titles, along with some perks that the big boys couldn’t—or wouldn’t—offer. These include ROW8’s proprietary ‘Movie Love Guarantee,’ which allows users to bail on a film within the first 30 minutes and swap it for another without incurring additional fees.
Within a year, ROW8 had deals with four major studios and others quickly followed. ROW8’s content lineup now features titles from all major studios, including Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Black Adam, Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train and the George Clooney/Julia Roberts vehicle Ticket to Paradise.
Meanwhile, Rad was building its own immersive streaming platform with an initial focus on virtual reality (VR) experiences. Rad launched apps for platforms as diverse as Oculus, Sony’s PlayStation and PlayStation VR, Android TV, Apple devices and Huawei smart TVs. Now available on close to half a billion devices, Rad has expanded beyond VR into more traditional video content by striking deals with both individual creators and major studios.
ROW8 co-founder and president Jasmina Christoph hailed the union, saying, “Rad’s suite of Web3 creator tools alongside ROW8’s library of Hollywood films will make our platform the premier destination for both digital collectibles and your favorite movies.”
‘Breaking through the noise’
Rad CEO Tony Mugavero, who will serve as CEO of the combined companies, called ROW8 “easily the best-positioned company in the world to bring Hollywood into the future, with its patented technology, app footprint, and deep relationships with the biggest studios in the world.”
Mugavero told CoinGeek that conversations about Rad and ROW8 joining forces began at the end of 2021 as streaming services were looking for ways to differentiate their offering. ROW8 has an impressive contest roster but, with an ever-growing number of sites offering similar attractions, Mugavero said the question becomes how does a service “break through the noise” to distinguish itself from the herd.
One method might be through exclusives, although Mugavero noted that exclusives aren’t cheap. A better option is to achieve liftoff “through innovation, new formats and working with Web3 native studios, accessing new devices and international markets, and helping grow audiences for these media companies in ways that they can’t do.”
Mugavero is a blockchain veteran since 2012 and says Rad has “always taken this approach of ‘how can we innovate, how can we stay ahead of where media and technology are converging and position ourselves for the future.’”
The major studios initially turned a blind eye to streaming services until Netflix began meaningfully impacting their market share. Mugavero said the studios learned their lesson and are determined not to get caught flat-footed on the blockchain, NFT and Web3 fronts. The focus isn’t on making money out of the gate, but about “getting out in front of these things now so that over the next couple years they’re well positioned to take advantage of them. We’re their partner for that.”
Positioning Rad as the organization to lead the studios into this next phase is a natural extension of the companies’ previous dealings. Mugavero’s pitch to the studios was simple: “You’ve already given us your trust to build technology and immersive content and stream that content from our platform. You’ve already given ROW8 the right to stream your biggest movies. So give us the opportunity to be your trusted partner as you build for Web3 and make it a part of your core business.”
ROW8 co-founder George Christoph had also met with a studio in which the discussion turned to blockchain technology. When word of this filtered back to Rad, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Brooklyn Earick said his team’s reaction was “’hey, we’ve partnered with this blockchain called BSV and we’re working with this company nChain, so if you’re having these conversations and that’s not your expertise….’ After that, they let us step in a little bit and lead some of those conversations.”
With Hollywood studio bosses focused on the busy holiday film slate, Earick says both Rad and ROW8 will likely spend the rest of the year “tying up loose ends but we plan to hit the ground running early next year. We want to paint a clear picture of how beneficial BSV-based NFTs and smart contracts can be, not only for the studios but also their relationships with their consumers and collectors.”
Proper utility means 4k movies, not 10-second GIFs
Mainstream media hype over NFTs has died down considerably since the year began, a casualty of both the digital asset sector’s overall downturn and individuals waking up to the fact that crude JPEGs can’t always be flipped for a higher price. Given those conditions, some might consider it a bad time to be pushing NFTs on Hollywood studios.
That’s not how Earick sees it, primarily because Rad was “never focused on being a JPEG marketplace. We’re more about real-world utility than collecting/flipping on hype-cycles.” Adding JPEG capabilities is easy enough to implement but “we’ve always been more focused on how smart contracts and NFTs can be used to make distribution more efficient, allow creators to self-distribute, set their own royalties and get payouts quicker – with video content, specifically.”
Rad famously began its blockchain journey on Ethereum but soon lost faith in the chain due to its onerous and unpredictable ‘gas’ fees. This led Rad to take a closer look at BSV. BSV’s low transaction costs and capacity to handle a vast quantity of transactions—crucial for creators who might mint hundreds or even thousands of individual NFTs in a single collection—convinced Rad that this was the chain for them.
BSV’s scalability also proved a strong selling point, offering Rad a chance to run rings around its competitors. Earick noted that NFT marketplace OpenSea’s maximum video capability is “a 5-10 second GIF. We’ve been playing around minting 4K movies as NFTs on BSV.” While on-chain storage of high-resolution movies isn’t yet practicable, Moore’s Law suggests that it’s only a matter of time.
The recent revelation that the bankruptcy of the FTX exchange had rendered NFTs minted on FTX unviewable underscores the need for the kind of on-chain NFT storage only available on BSV. Mugavero said “BSV’s on-chain storage was one of the things that interested Rad early on. It’s hard to put movies on chain but if we’re putting images of rare movie posters that people have never seen, trading cards or other collectables, doing it directly on-chain is enormously important.”
Web3 makes its move
Earick said the addition of ROW8’s deep content library will allow Rad to increase its already solid head-start on the competition. “Our combined platform will have all these Hollywood titles – Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Avatar, whatever – in one carousel, with video NFTs in another carousel.”
“A lot of video projects in the NFT space have expressed interest in NFTs to gate their content; as in to watch this episode or series, you need to own the NFT, which our platform can already do. Other projects or studios just want to use smart contracts and NFT’s as a means of distribution and a way to set their own royalties. The Rad and ROW8 combined platforms will be the first to showcase both traditional and Web3 distribution models, side by side. This will pave the way for large Hollywood studios to have easy access to Web3 distribution – and we’ll certainly see our first creator series strike a deal with a major studio via being discovered on our platform.”
Mugavero said Rad sees “an enormous business opportunity” in Web3-native studios given “what they’re doing in IP creation, community building, special access to events or chats using NFTs as access. It’s important for the Web3 studios to find a platform that is higher quality that they can trust and is elevating their content because it legitimizes the whole space.”
Rad has secured funding from a number of high-profile investors, including The Tornante Company, Sony Innovation Fund, A+E Networks, Warner Music Group, WWE, Gary Vaynerchuk, and more. Previous funding rounds for Rad were led by Ayre Ventures and Mugavero believes “it’s sometimes hard for investors to see how blockchain, NFTs and smart contracts can be beneficial. Ever since the first Ayre Ventures investment, we’ve seen a lot of the same companies and investors that we’d previously talked to start to circle back and say ‘okay, there’s something here.’ Ayre Ventures helped us fire those conversations back up.”
Mugavero believes the Rad/ROW8 deal will “bring a bigger use case to the BSV ecosystem. We’re recreating the foundation of streaming right now. It will take some time to fully manifest but the way we think about it, we share a similar vision with how Ayre Ventures has thought about it.”
Ayre Ventures’ founder Calvin Ayre expects great things from the ROW8’s acquisition of Rad. “Having grown up in Canada, I’m fond of hockey analogies. Wayne Gretzky used to tell young players not to go where the puck is; go where the puck is going to be. From the start, Rad set a goal of not following other streaming platforms but establishing a new definition of what streaming can offer. Building on BSV, with ROW8’s impressive content library, Rad is well on track to realize that vision.”
Watch: BSV Global Blockchain Convention presentation, Rad NFTV: BSV ticks all the boxes—inexpensive, fast & it worked
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