Why ViacomCBS may soon turn SpongeBob and Snooki into NFTs

A newly announced partnership with Recur will translate the media network’s IP library into non-fungible tokens and digital collectibles.

Why ViacomCBS may soon turn SpongeBob and Snooki into NFTs

ViacomCBS has teamed up with non-fungible token company Recur with the goal of ushering many of its franchises and intellectual property into the rapidly expanding world of NFTs.

Under the terms of the agreement, ViacomCBS and Recur—a relatively new venture whose first project will be unveiled sometime this fall, according to its website—will “create a unified environment where fans can buy, collect and trade NFTs,” the two companies jointly said in a statement.

The project is due to launch in the spring of 2022 and will encompass a wide swath of ViacomCBS’s portfolio of entertainment brands, including CBS, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Paramount Pictures and characters and stars like SpongeBob SquarePants, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of "Jersey Shore" fame and "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah. 

ViacomCBS is “thrilled” to launch its partnership with Recur, said Pam Kaufman, the media giant’s president of consumer products, adding that its products will be targeted to “voracious collectors and first-time NFT buyers alike.” The exact nature and design of the blockchain-based NFTs that will be sold has not yet been disclosed.

Recur’s aim is to create a “chain agnostic” environment—meaning a space where multiple blockchains, including the cryptocurrency most commonly associated with NFTs, Ethereum, can be registered and accepted for simplified use—said Trevor George and Zach Bruch, co-founders and CEOs of Recur.

That’s one of several components of the companies’ agreement designed to welcome novice NFT buyers, many of whom may not yet be familiar with the digital collectibles.

In another bid to expand access, the new platform developed by ViacomCBS and Recur will also accept major credit and debit cards, which runs contrary to much of  the current NFT marketplace where most business is transacted via Ethereum.

ViacomCBS’s NFT launch makes it one of the largest media companies to date to enter into the non-fungible “metaverse,” but it will hardly be the first, with dozens of brands rushing to get in on the action since digital artist Beeple first brought NFTs to prominence earlier this year.

Fox announced at its upfront presentation this spring that it would use NFTs to promote its new animated series “Krapopolis,” turning characters and plot points into digital art.

“The company will launch a dedicated marketplace for 'Krapopolis' that will curate and sell digital goods, ranging from NFTs of one-of-a-kind character and background art, and GIFs, as well as tokens that provide exclusive social experiences to engage and reward super fans,” the network said at the time.

Restaurant and consumer brands have also been early corporate adopters of NFTs, with the likes of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, e.l.f. Cosmetics and the NFL all dabbling in the digital artform—and in some cases, making some serious cash in the process.

But the influx of money doesn’t end after one-time auction and direct sales, because with NFTs, works of art and collectibles that are pegged to a certain brand allow for its original producer to get a cut of any future resales.

Take Pizza Hut’s NFT as an example. Its image of a pixelated pizza slice originally sold for .0001 Ethereum, or about 18 cents, as a means of promoting four new menu items, but it was quickly put back on the market for 5 Ethereum (worth roughly $8,824.07). The Yum Brands chain will receive a 1% of all future sales of its NFT, which can add up as some NFTs bring in millions of dollars.