Departing Warner exec says blockchain is future of Hollywood

AT&T Chief Executive Officer Jason Kilar is pictured in an undated photograph supplied by the company. (Photo: AT&T/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

Departing WarnerMedia executive Jason Kilar has refused to discuss his next possible steps after he resigns his position this week, but some comments made in a recent interview strongly suggests whatever comes after his career at AT&T will likely be rooted in emerging technology.

On Tuesday, the financial newswire Reuters published an interview with Kilar in which he made a bold pronouncement that blockchain technology would shape the future of Hollywood.

“I think that’s going to be a potential wave that’s going to be coming to Hollywood, in the same way that the DVD wave came to Hollywood in the [1990s],” Kilar told Reuters after he announced his intention to step down from AT&T WarnerMedia later this week.

Kilar’s recent career in the entertainment industry has been centered around new technology platforms: Before joining AT&T as the chief executive of its WarnerMedia entertainment subsidiary, Kilar served as the founding chief executive of Hulu, which was at one point owned by a consortium of domestic broadcasters (it is now majority owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company).

Prior to his work at Hulu, he worked his way up the corporate ladder at Amazon, starting as a retail manager before eventually serving as a senior executive in charge of application software.

Kilar said DVD technology introduced in the 1990s spurred economic growth at a number of media companies, including WarnerMedia. The Reuters interview offered no specifics, but industry experts said the cost of manufacturing a DVD and distributing the discs was cheaper than the older VHS and Beta formats, which were bulkier and more-expensive to produce and ship.

Netflix helped spur a demand for DVDs with its disc-by-mail service, which was introduced in the late 1990s. It peaked in the mid-2000s before the company eventually shifted its focus to its subscription-based streaming video service.

In that same fashion, Kilar believes blockchain technology will help generate new products and open up revenue opportunities for television and film producers and distributors in the years to come.

Kilar said there were opportunities to utilize blockchain technology in storytelling and technology, Reuters said, though he declined to say if the technology would play a central role in his next job.

Blockchain technology involves using a decentralized computer network to keep a recorded ledger of transactions. The transactions are recorded using encrypted computer code, and the nature of the network makes it difficult for the ledger to be altered, which makes it easier to trust that the transactions listed in the ledger are accurate.

The technology is the underpinning of Bitcoin, a cashless financial instrument that was slow to gain adoption but has rapidly gained acceptance in recent years. Walmart, Amazon and IBM are among hundreds of companies that have franchised blockchain technology for various applications over the last few years.

Recently, blockchain technology has been at the center of a new product called “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs. The product is similar to a digital trading card, though NFTs can include audio and video files. CNN, the cable news channel owned by WarnerMedia, is among several media companies to experiment with offering NFTs for sale.