Merchandising — the activity of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets — is an important part of the distribution of any content (movies, animation films, etc), and is an alternative way to generate additional revenues. However, conventionally the merchandising of content is possible only after the demand is generated for it on the back of a successful broadcast launch.

The advent of blockchain has, however, reversed this process for the better. This new-age technology allows content creators to merchandise their artwork and crowdfund their concept through tokens, before financing the show.

At the forefront of this revolution is a Singapore-based startup. BlockPunk, a less than six-month-old startup, has developed a decentralised marketplace for branded anime content, with a mission to drive power from major streaming platforms back to content creators.

“BlockPunk is a new way for creators to sell digital collectibles and artwork to their fans and connect with their community. Fans can buy, collect and sell digital collectibles from their favourite creators,” says Co-founder  Julian Lai-Hung. “We built BlockPunk to empower creators to fund, merchandise and stream their content directly to fans, using peer-to-peer technologies.”

Founded by Lai-Hung (CEO) and Jatin Shah (CTO), BlockPunk was launched in April this year. An entertainment studio, the platform basically turns digital assets into rare collectible items by recording all creations and exchanges of artworks on blockchain.

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“When a creator initially sells a collectible, almost all the funds (minus a small percent to BlockPunk) go directly to himself/herself. Even when you buy a collectible from another fan, a portion of the sale always goes back to him/her. You get a cool new collectible and your favourite creators get paid to keep doing what you both love,” he explains.

According to Lai-Hung, the movie and TV industry is becoming increasingly centralised with Silicon Valley taking over Hollywood. Fixed fee deals, lack of viewing data, and limited merchandising opportunities are the hallmarks of the streaming world.

“Films and TV shows are made to sell merchandise. When a new anime show streams across the world, there is no way to simultaneously purchase merchandise at scale. This is because producers usually wait for six months to see how a show performs before scaling merchandise production. With our platform, any independent anime creator can instantly and globally sell digital merchandise,” Lai-Hung adds.

“Here, creators can easily manage their rights and monetise their assets in the growing Web 3.0 peer to-peer environment. This is important because we are empowering creators and reducing the distance between them and their fans,” he shares.

BlockPunk was started off by taking unpublished character designs from a title called Zunda Horizon (voted as Japan’s 4th most popular anime in 2017) and sold them as crypto art directly to fans. Each time an artwork was sold and resold, both creators and fans made money.

While there are many anime social networks, physical merchandise and video streaming sites in the market, none of them offers a turnkey solution for anime creators to monetise their rights through crypto, claims Lai-Hung.

BlockPunk sees itself as the next-generation entertainment studio, rather than just an art market. The role of a studio is to make and distribute hit entertainment.

“We are essentially upgrading the studio model for the Web 3.0 era. Our beachhead is the global anime community and we have started with digital merchandise. We have licenses with eight of the top anime creators and studios in Japan, and are currently talking to all the other top studios and creators,” he shares. “We are  signing up anime fan artists and independent anime and manga creators from the global community. We have the producers of Devilman Crybaby, Berserk and the Animatrix on our team. Since I used to run the anime business for Netflix in Japan, we have an edge in this domain.”

The company takes a commission on the sales of crypto art merchandise. In future, BlockPunk will introduce crowdfunding services as an alternative revenue stream, where it will take a commission on funds raised for production, or invest in the productions together with fans.

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The global anime merchandise market is worth US$8 billion — double the size of anime video market, which is at US$4 billion. Asia alone is home to millions of passionate anime fans. India and China are probably the biggest sources of growth for the industry over the next 10 years.

BlockPunk was initially funded by Entrepreneur First (backed by SGInnovate) and DLE Capital, the corporate venture arm of the Tokyo Stock Exchange- listed Japanese entertainment studio DLE.

“We are currently closing our Seed Round with some strategic partners which we hope to announce very soon,” he concludes.