Theta Labs: Decentralized Streaming Network

Theta Labs: The Mission

Theta Labs is building a decentralized video delivery network, powered by users and blockchain. In doing so, Theta Labs aims to address some of the issues plaguing the video streaming industry, particularly in developing countries, such as low quality streams, pauses and skips during buffering as well as the high costs of CDNs, and limited revenue flow back to content creators.

“We realized that this idea, of having someone in a remote location using their spare resources and bandwidth to “cache” and “relay” video streams, could revolutionize the internet delivery of esports, entertainment and many other industries. In fact, it could revolutionize the delivery of all kinds of content!” Riz Virk, Investor in Sliver.tv, Interim Head of Corp Development, Theta Labs

Who are Theta Labs?

US-based startup Theta Labs is a subsidiary of esport live streaming platform SLIVER.tv.

SLIVER.tv is the largest esports platform built around a virtual economy. It saw over 2.5 million unique visits in October 2017, and is experiencing a 50% month-over-month growth rate.

Mitch Liu is the CEO and co-founder of Theta Labs. He also co-founded Tapjoy and Gameview Studios.

Jieyi Long is the CTO and co-founder who like Liu, has a computer engineering background. He describes himself as a cryptography expert who specializes in mathematical modeling and algorithms for large scale distributed systems.

Ryan Nichols is the Head of Product & Platform who is also a Director at Tencent WeChat.

Theta’s advisory board includes Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube and Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch.

Where is the Investment Coming From?

Danhua Capital leads the investment in Theta Labs. Additional strategic partners currently include Silicon Valley venture capital funds DCM, Sierra Ventures, and VR Fund; Chinese institutional funds Heuristic Capital, ZP Capital, and Sparkland; Japanese corporate partner Gumi; and individual purchasers, including the former Group Managing Director of Time Warner Investments.

What is Theta?

Theta Labs is constructing a peer-to-peer video delivery network, which deploys a native blockchain and its own cryptocurrency that users can earn by caching and relaying video streams to others.

Theta is making its protocol available as open source software on GitHub in order to allow global users who have un-utilized PC bandwidth and other resources to cash and relay video streams to others in the Theta network and thus mine Theta tokens. The protocol will also permit vertical decentralized apps (DApps) to be built on top of the platform.

How Does it Work?

Distributed nodes within the Theta Network earn Theta tokens by becoming “caching” servers. End users watch these streams via “caching” nodes that are near them geographically. However, in addition to being a delivery network, a streamer can go onto the Theta network and upload their own streams for others to watch. This works by the other users serving as “ingest nodes”, which automatically converts them into the correct formats (in terms of resolution, bit-rates, etc.) and delivering them to the caching nodes.

A decentralized network without a single owner theoretically allows anyone to upload their own content outside of the big TV networks or streaming sites. Theta tokens, which will be mined by the network in a new blockchain, will be the currency that allows users to “reward” streamers and content creators directly. This method of “gifting virtual currency or goods to streamers” has apparently already become popular in China.

In addition to the infrastructure, there is also a need for decentralized apps (Dapps) to serve the different segments of the market, from entertainment to corporate video conferencing to e-sports. Theta intends to build the eSports Dapp via Sliver.tv, and expects others to use its open source protocol to build other industry and vertical Dapps.

When will it come to Market?

The Theta tokens is the first element to have entered the public domain, via the SLIVER.tv esport live streaming platform (live and on-demand competitive video games), which last month went live on the Theta ERC20-compliant token. Users can earn tokens and use them as gifts for influencers and purchase virtual goods for their choice of games.

The company estimates that the Theta blockchain will be launched in late 2018. Users who have Theta ERC20 tokens will be able to swap these for the native Theta tokens at a 1:1 rate.

Plans for 2019 include Theta Network going live for caching and mining modes in Q1 and a debut of its premium on-demand content in Q3.

How will this Impact the Current Video Streaming Landscape?

Two-thirds of all Internet traffic today is video, and a large percentage of that is video streaming. As founding team member and interim head of Corp Development Riz Virk put it recently in a blog on Hackernoon, the web today “resembles more of an oligarchy than a democratic model” because of the “mega-content” nodes responsible for most of the delivery, such as video streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, or gaming sites like Twitch.

Most CDNs use “pay per storage” or “pay per bandwidth” models, making content delivery pricey at a time when most consumers are only willing to pay a small amount of money for the service. For many entertainment and gaming companies, according to Virk, infrastructure can account for 30-50% of all operating costs.

Theta believes that is decentralized network has the potential to cut out the middlemen, so that streamers could set the price of their own content and advertisers could use Theta tokens to reward content creators and streamers directly, as well as possibly viewers for engaging with particular content.

Virk describes it as “a grassroots approach to creating content and democratically allowing the benefits of that content to accrue to content creators and those who share in the infrastructure costs.”

Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube who sits on Theta’s advisory board said, “Theta’s innovation is set to disrupt today’s online video industry much in the same way that the YouTube platform did to traditional video back in 2005. One of our biggest challenges had been the high costs of delivering video to various parts of the world, and this problem is only getting bigger with HD, 4K and higher quality video streams. I’m excited to be part of the next evolution of the streaming space, helping Theta create a decentralized peer-to-peer network that can offer improved video delivery at lower costs.”

Further Reading:

Theta Labs Overview

Riz Virk blog post, Why We’re Introducing the Theta Token & Blockchain to Revolutionize Video Delivery

Theta Coin Thread on thebitcoin.pub

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