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NEW DELHI : Media and entertainment companies, including television broadcasters, film production houses and music labels, are exploring ways to monetize the Metaverse, an immersive digital world that some say is how humans will interact with each other in the future.

Viacom18 has launched non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with collectibles inspired by past iconic characters and IPs for its youth, music and English TV channel cluster, while film company Pooja Entertainment has bought virtual land to carry out promotional activities for films starting with the upcoming Bademiyan Chotemiyan.

Metaverse, the alternative digital reality, is a technology that lets participants connect, work and live life digitally with augmented reality and virtual reality. Last October, Facebook changed its name to Meta, emphasizing that this virtual reality would be the future of the Internet.

Film production and music label firm T-Series has also announced a foray into NFTs, along with Hungama Digital Media. Music, dialogues or lyrics NFTs will be common in future, as will Metaverse concerts, said entertainment industry experts. NFT is a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided. It is recorded in a blockchain and is used to certify authenticity and ownership.

“We have been tracking our core audience, which is a younger demographic, and broadly there has been a huge adoption of cryptocurrency. This launch gives us the first mover’s advantage in the space and helps us educate consumers about the area in a simplified fashion," said Anshul Ailawadi, head, youth, music and English entertainment, Viacom18.

The company will double down on its efforts in the space, Ailawadi said, adding that it is looking to drop another NFT collection in the next three to four months.

“The idea is to unlock more access and experiences, so perhaps an NFT purchased today could lead to discounts on OTT services or a meet-and-greet opportunity with a star in future. The possibilities for fan engagement are limitless," Ailawadi said.

In the media and entertainment business, the function of Metaverse and NFTs in facilitating virtual asset ownership is becoming increasingly important, said Amol Roy, founder of digital agency The Shutter Cast. “NFTs aid in the commercialization of media and entertainment. On the Metaverse interface, media companies can generate and sell digital assets, providing an extra revenue stream. This rewards creators by providing them with a new source of income from their work," Roy pointed out.

With the emergence of the Metaverse, the entire media and entertainment industry is poised to undergo a paradigm shift, said Arun Pandey, co-founder of NFT marketplace Beyondlife.club and chairman and managing director, Rhiti Group.

“NFTs, in particular, will be a crucial aspect of the Metaverse, and their effective integration can prove to be highly potent for M&E companies. From movies to music, the possible applications of this technology are phenomenal," Pandey said. For instance, virtual events with 3D avatars of performers are no more a notion for the future as singer Daler Mehndi’s recent Metaverse concert recorded over 20 million viewers from all over the world, Pandey said.

The Metaverse seems like the go-to place for everyone in the next few years, agreed Deepshikha Deshmukh, a producer at Pooja Entertainment.

“It’s important for companies to be present for a customer base that is taking to AR (augmented reality) and other immersive media," said Deshmukh, calling it early days to look at profits and investments.

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, founder and managing director of digital agency BC Web Wise, said for a meaningful presence, a brand could look at an initial investment of 50 lakh, which could run into a few crores.

There is a lot that the Metaverse can offer to consumer-facing companies, said Vishakha Singh, vice-president, WazirX NFT Marketplace. “What is known is that it is going to be a virtual replica of the real world. And from that perspective, the music industry can look forward to seeing many avatars of existing artistes, live shows with these avatars, and perhaps buy and sell memorabilia. Other opportunities in the Metaverse are related to finance. This would mean monetization of music rights and IP rights of these avatars," Singh said.

Samir Asher, founder and chief operating officer of digital agency Tonic Worldwide, said Metaverse concerts, parties and events are already happening.

To design immersive experiences, creators and brand builders will need to collaborate with technologists to make ideas come alive, he said.

Akshae Golekar, the founder of Optiminastic Media, a content, performance and influencer marketing agency, said Metaverse would trigger interactive storytelling. There will be a lot of entertainment and interactive content required once users are in the Metaverse. “The media and entertainment industry will need to be more interactive when using this platform because end-users expect an instant response, instant feedback, instant reaction, and this is what Web3 is about," Golekar said.

Yet others point to barriers in terms of awareness, technical know-how and cost. “Ultimately, the value of a collection lies in the eyes of the audience, and that target group may be a little narrow right now," said Siddharth Devnani, co-founder and director at digital agency SoCheers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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