Media company ViacomCBS is getting into NFTs. Amid growing hype around the potential market for NFTs, aka non-fungible tokens -- digital assets linked to ownership that's stored on a blockchain, often used for buying and selling digital art and collectibles -- ViacomCBS says it's partnering with the NFT company Recur to bring its iconic IP and franchises to the world of digital collectibles, starting next year. This includes products and collectibles from shows and films across top ViacomCBS brands like CBS, MTV, Showtime, Paramount Pictures, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.
The company isn't offering many details about the upcoming project just yet, beyond simply saying that it will involve creating a place where its fans can buy, collect and trade NFTs across its portfolio. It also notes this platform will encourage "peer-to-peer engagement and facilitate innovative ways for users to unlock new experiences," which signals there's a social element to the new experience that goes beyond just the marketplace aspects.
Recur, which recently closed on a $50 million Series A, valuing the pre-launch company at $333 million, is currently working on building an NFT platform called NFTU.com. This platform is being created in partnership with digital licensing company Veritone, and will host NFTs created with Pac-12 Networks athletics video content -- like sports highlights, for example.
This project can give you an idea of what ViacomCBS likely has in store with its own NFT plans.
While a number of other NFT marketplaces already exist, Recur's plan is to develop technology that standardizes recurring royalties minted on any cryptocurrency -- a decision that means NFTs would become "chain-agnostic," bringing more potential fans into the crypto ecosystem. For brand partners and IP holders, that means once the NFT left their own, originating platform to be resold elsewhere, the original rights holder would be able to continue to receive recurring royalties from the sales and resales indefinitely.
That could certainly look appealing to a media company with a deep catalog of IP that could be turned into digital collectibles. Think: Spongebob Squarepants, South Park or Star Trek collectibles, for instance. (To be clear, ViacomCBS has not announced the specific shows it will include in its initial distributions. And there could be more complicated rights discussions to still be ironed out with creators, actors and others tied to its IP before those determinations can be made.)
In addition, Recur's chain-agnostic approach will allow NFT purchases to be made using U.S. credit and debit cards, instead of just cryptocurrencies. That could also appeal to a company looking to reach a wider audience outside of tech early adopters.
The new platform -- essentially a white-labeled marketplace Recur will provide -- launches in the spring of 2022, says ViacomCBS.
ViacomCBS is not the first media company to embrace NFTs. In addition to adoption by top media figures themselves, brands including CNN, The New Yorker, Time, Playboy, Lionsgate, Media Central, Gannett, Fox and others have also begun their own investigations and experiments into the medium.
"Fueled by beloved characters and iconic properties with multi-generational appeal, we are thrilled to accelerate our consumer products presence even further into the growing metaverse," said Pam Kaufman, ViacomCBS president of Consumer Products, in a statement. "In teaming up with Recur to create an NFT platform dedicated to ViacomCBS IP, voracious collectors and first-time NFT buyers alike will find unique opportunities to own a piece of their favorite franchises," she added.
ViacomCBS told us the more immediate focus is not on monetization via NFT sales, but rather sees the platform as a community-building and fan engagement effort.