(April 16, 2021) XCINEX's founder Cihan Fuat Atkin isn't looking to disrupt the status quo; he wants to smash it, altering the way we access premium media content at home. His tool of choice isn't a rehash of currently available streaming services, nor is it backed by exclusive rights to a studio's back catalog. It’s a novel device that gives content creators pinpoint control over market access while placing a virtual ticket window in homes across the country. Think of it as a camera-based version of Alexa, with a bit of YouTube and Netflix mixed together, topped off with security protocols and a healthy dose of live entertainment and new release films.
Uncomfortably foreign? If you're older than 40, probably!
Before passing judgment and professing a hard-stop ‘nope, not in my home,’ let the concepts and core functionalities behind XCINEX's VENUE platform marinate for a bit. Considering more than 25-percent of American homes have at least one smart speaker, and billions of humans have risked privacy for access to social media platforms, there's a decent chance that a camera-based gadget like VENUE can wiggle itself into our everyday lives.
To start, let's cover the basics. VENUE is a subscription-free platform that’s designed to turn your living room into a hub of exclusive entertainment, granting access to premium content after viewers pay a visit to the system’s virtual box office. Using a camera and nifty artificial intelligence, VENUE will stream a movie or event to your TV as long as everyone in the room has a ticket.
Say, for example, you'd like to watch Conor McGregor’s next UFC fight, but you’d rather get punched in the face than absorb an exorbitant pay-per-view fee. If the fight were on VENUE, you’d only have to pay for yourself – which technically should be less. And what if four friends decide to join? VENUE would know, pausing the event until all four have paid for tickets.
Given current global conditions, VENUE appears to be a high-tech response to COVID's impact on the entertainment industry, but it’s not. During an exclusive interview with AV NIRVANA, Atkin said the idea was born in 2012 and became a full-fledged business four years later. "I knew if I was thinking about it, there was a good chance others were too," explained Atkin, who raced to secure patents. "We actually beat Microsoft to a patent, which let me know we weren't the only player in the game."
Atkin and his team created the first VENUE prototype device in 2016, and XCINEX (pronounced see-nex) is currently testing 350 pre-production units with consumers and various industry players. If all goes well, VENUE will go live during Q4 2021, shedding any doubts and concerns presented by the pandemic.
So, in an odd twist of fate, VENUE might become Hollywood’s ultimate COVID lifeline.
VENUE will initially launch as an app (VENUE app) that can be downloaded to participating camera-equipped TVs, quickly followed by two hardware devices that perch on top of a TV. VENUE Lite is a simple USB optical sensor, while VENUEx is a full-fledged camera/streaming device that connects to your TV.
Quality-wise, VENUE can be configured to stream in 720p, 1080p, and 4K resolutions, with support for 3D. It also accommodates Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.
XCINEX's approach is both consumer- and industry-friendly, providing intriguing value propositions to both parties. The entertainment industry can use VENUE as a versatile market access tool, pinpointing when and where content is made available, even adjusting ticket prices for specific markets. For example, a studio might block a film on VENUE in the New York City market, driving customers to commercial cinemas, while making it available in rural Iowa and Oregon. And Iowans might pay $3 less per ticket as compared to customers living in Portland.
VENUE is also designed to be a lucrative source of revenue, offering studios an 80/20 split on tickets while concurrently serving as an e-commerce platform. Atkin says e-commerce will initially be introduced to viewers following a film or event, but XCINEX is exploring scene-specific purchasing opportunities where consumers can select and buy items in real-time.
The platform doesn't collect user-specific information, but it does provide content creators with general "probability-based" audience demographic data. That means studios and acts can access information about an audience's average age or gender, for example. It can also capture moment-specific data, like a reaction to a joke or a scene in a film. "It can provide granular data,” said Atkin. “For instance, did people laugh or cry during a scene? It’s all general data though, not specific to a person."
It's hard to argue against VENUE’s merits from an industry perspective. Studios are empowered with content control and take a much healthier cut of ticket sales. They also gain a new channel to interact with and understand consumers. Oh, and let’s not forget about content security protections built-in to the VENUE platform. Not too shabby.
For us, the consumer, VENUE is a gateway to films and events that otherwise require a visit to a live venue, subscription to a streaming service, or pay-per-view fees. And Atkin says VENUE will ultimately offer experiences that go beyond the ordinary. "We want to create an experience you can't have in a movie theater," he explained, adding that VENUE’s target audience is the Gen Alpha, Gen Z, and millennial crowds.
I asked Atkin to address privacy concerns and he assured me that personal data is strictly protected. "To consumers that are sensitive," he explained, "we have a magnetic cover for the camera and a halo light that comes on when the camera is active." As for those people that still aren't comfortable? "Don't get it," Atkin responded. "Those folks can still go to a movie theater or a live show."
As Atkin points out, people have willingly opened their doors and pockets to devices with cameras and microphones. There are also generational factors at work, with tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings freely sharing personal moments on social media platforms without hesitation. Convenience, access, and new social norms have led billions to accept potentially invasive devices and services into their lives. VENUE – if it takes off – will have received a similar pass.
Can you imagine telling your kid they can't attend a VENUE concert with friends because of the device's camera? I have to admit - I can't. How about turning down a chance to watch a new hit film with friends because you don't have a VENUE account? Again, it's tough to see a scenario where I'd say no.
While VENUE is still a work in progress, and XCINEX continues to secure industry relationships and polish its product, the platform’s biggest hurdle will likely be quality of content. Can it secure agreements with the Taylor Swifts and Dave Chappelles of the world? Will it host massive blockbuster hits like Top Gun: Maverick? Ultimately, big names will drive big interest, and big interest creates demand.
If you're intrigued by XCINEX and its VENUE technology, you can become an investor of sorts. The company is currently hosting a funding venture on wefunder.com. The campaign, which has raised nearly $400,000, allows investors to buy convertible notes in increments of $100. So, if you’d like to throw your weight behind some flashy new tech, then click here and roll the dice. Who knows, your investment might help save Hollywood.