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Technoport Collaborating For Digital Entertainment Industry Innovation With The #NextStageChallenge Program

In a period of change for the live entertainment ecosystem due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, Technoport technology business incubator decided to collaborate with relevant European Digital Media & Entertainment players to found together a new movement, the #NextStageChallenge, aiming to innovate and reshape the digital live experience.
by: Nicole Monti
photo: Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

The #NextStageChallenge included a 2-week virtual hackathon from 4th to 15th May 2020, to find solutions across 3 focus areas of the live streaming industry. Firstly, the ‘Access’ track i.e. the innovative content production workflows. Secondly, the ‘Fan Engagement’ track i.e. the new engaging fan experiences. Thirdly, the ‘Value’ track i.e. the new forms of content monetization and value sharing models.

The virtual hackathon allowed the exploration of new technological value proposals and business models, and was followed by a 6-week acceleration program to support the best submitted projects, that started in May and that will end in July 2020.

With a global market revenue of more than 175 US billion dollars, the digital media and entertainment industry represents a growing sector in the traditional media industry. Video games and digital music together account for more than 60% of this market, that today it is largely driven by audio and video streaming. Just think that in 2018 the music streaming segment grew by 34% against the 9.7% growth of the recording market, and in 2020 it already represents almost 90% of the digital music market and more than half of the global music market, worthing 16 US billion dollars. It’s clear how nowadays the media and entertainment industry is being boosted by its increasing digitalization. With the always evolving digital distribution capabilities, new business models for creators are emerging as well as a significant focus on the customer experience with more consumer-centric contents.

In addition to this massive digital transition already in action, the year 2020 has accelerated the shift from offline to online services due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lockdown has pushed consumers’ habits towards virtual forms of live entertainment, forcing media players to integrate new models to communicate, manage ads and engage with the audience.

In this changing framework where consumers are looking for new experiences, the role of startups becomes crucial to create new digital models and an interaction with new technologies is needed. Indeed, the forecasted trends that will drive the media and entertainment industry are all represented by emerging technologies such as AR/VR, AI and Machine Learning, Voice-enabled technology and Big Data analytics. Digital video will dominate the traffic on the Internet. The eSport is expected to massively rise too.

Looking at the live streaming, its value chain is very tech innovative: today technology is exploited to revamp content production workflows, create more interaction with the customer, and a new relationship between producers and consumers is emerging.

It’s in this context that Technoport incubator exploited its expertise in technology business creation and in innovation management and started a collaboration with other EU players with the aim to foster innovation in the digital media & entertainment industry and support the most promising tech projects by means of a new innovation program: the #NextStageChallenge.

The #NextStageChallenge project has been collaboratively conceived and organized by nine European actors from the Music and Innovation Industry: Technoport (Luxembourg), Music Ally (UK), TheLynk (France), Sacem (France), Wallifornia MusicTech (Belgium), Music Innovation Hub (Italy), Music Norway (Norway), STHLM Music City (Sweden) and Teosto (Finland).

Moreover, the initiative has been supported by 18 partners representing the wider music ecosystem: Universal Music Group – Digital Innovation, JUMP (European Music Market Accelerator), MusicTechFrance, The Music Den, LeanSquare, BNC Music Tech Hub, IMF (Italian Music Festival), HEMI (Hub for the Exchange of Music Innovation), Bizarro Lab, Les Ardentes, Court Circuit, Live Europe, MediaTech Ventures, 2112, Athens Music Week, Arteprenor, From Sweden Productions and Mustach (Music Tech Association Chile).

To scout innovative projects, the first phase of Next Stage Challenge has been a 2-week virtual hackathon (4th-15th May) where participating teams had to find concrete solutions in support of one of the most impacted live industries by the Covid-19, the music industry.

The concept has been immediately very successful among music and tech players and attracted almost 450 applicants from 39 countries. More than 50 proposed projects have been validated by the organizing committee in the hackathon to receive support from industry mentors to develop a solution, while 35 more advanced proposals have been assigned to the fast track category to compete directly for the prize (an acceleration program to facilitate product market fit).

The participating teams worked remotely and coordinated via a dedicated Slack channel.

More than 35 recognised domain industry experts with different profiles (technical experts, business professionals, lawyers, TV channels, professional artists, …) mentored the participants during the hackathon.

At the end of the 2 weeks, the jury members selected 12 submitted projects (6 from the fast track and 2 projects per each of the 3 tracks – Access, Fan Engagement, Value) that received access to the 6-week online acceleration program by Walifornia MusicTech, running from May to July 2020 and supported by top-quality music industry, technical and business venture experts with dedicated pitching and exchange sessions.

Among the participants in the acceleration program, there is also the Luxembourg based startup Epiqur proposing an innovative live streaming service (see our article “EPIQUR, the live streaming platform for music performances and live events“).

The #NextStageChallenge had the aim to give a chance to artists, promoters and all those that had been deeply affected by the global lockdown to explore new forms of experience and business models for the current crisis, and also to work towards longer term innovations to provide a greater future to the music industry and related players (Venues, Festivals, Broadcasters, Distribution platforms, Promoters, Bookers, Producers, Publishers, Performers, Artists, Authors).

Secondly, it represented a concrete opportunity to connect project holders with industry players. Indeed, many of them received a pilot test proposal for their project.

Lastly, it has been interesting to concretely see how the practices are changing within the digital media & entertainment industry and where innovation comes from along the entire value chain of the live streaming.

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