- Hollywood creators and companies are increasingly taking interest in NFTs and the blockchain.
- Reese Witherspoon, “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf, and the “Masked Singer” have made or invested in NFTs.
- From IP to storytelling, here’s how entertainment can maximize the NFT space as it grows in 2022.
Producer Dick Wolf’s entertainment empire spans much of the American television psyche. The current broadcast season dedicates entire evenings to his crime procedurals: three variations of the “FBI” franchise on CBS on Tuesday nights, NBC’s “Chicago” troika on Wednesdays, and the long-running “Law & Order: SVU” and its companion series on Thursdays.
But when Wolf Entertainment entered a new realm of storytelling this fall, partnering with NFT platform Curio to create “The Wolf Society” — a “membership-based society for online detectives powered by Non-Fungible Tokens” — the team-up of the 75-year-old producer and blockchain-based market struck some observers as a head-scratcher.
Yet in an era where Reese Witherspoon touts crypto on social media, ViacomCBS mines the “SpongeBob” archives for NFT potential, and Fox released WWE and “Masked Singer” tokens, Hollywood is digging into the cyber asset.
Insider spoke to three executives at companies in the space — from legacy broadcaster Fox to digital startups — about the current NFT landscape in Hollywood and how it can develop in 2022.
Many NFTs that have popped up in entertainment are essentially artwork — akin to trading cards — like the 10,000 free “Miss Masky” collectibles Fox distributed in October through the “Maskverse.” As more NFTs become available, users will be able to collect, buy, and trade other “Masked Singer” NFTs on the Eluvio platform, which Fox invests in.
“We intentionally tried to make the onboarding and acquiring easy and cost effective,” said Scott Greenberg, the CEO of Fox’s animation studio Bento Box and its Blockchain Creative Labs. “We intentionally did not want speculators to come in and drive the price up.”
Greenberg believes NFTs will develop into a revenue business for Hollywood, not simply a marketing tool; he said Fox has a $100 million creators’ fund it plans to deploy more expansively in 2022.
Curio co-founder Ben Arnon echoed the notion that the NFT market can support more than digital art by offering new IP. The company has formed partnerships with studios and production companies such as Universal Pictures and Fremantle. In April, Anonymous Content optioned an NFT of the astronaut character Aku, in partnership with Shawn Mendes’ joint venture Permanent Content.
“We started out with the thesis that if we could merge major IP with NFTs, we could bring mainstream consumers to the NFT space,” said Arnon. “We initially started launching NFTs that function as digital collectibles, and over time we’ve imbued a lot more utility.”
“Wolf Society,” which features fictional cold cases penned by TV writers and game creators, is “groundbreaking, both with respect to the NFT landscape and also the multiplatform storytelling landscape,” Arnon said.
Along with Witherspoon, Quentin Tarantino, Grimes, John Cena, and Cara Delevingne (and her vagina-focused NFT) are among the high-profile names who’ve supported NFTs — though as Bloomberg cautioned, celeb-focused tokens tend to depreciate rapidly. And Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” NFT plans have hit a legal snag.
Given that cryptocurrency enthusiasts are predominantly men, Worklife founder and venture capitalist Brianne Kimmel welcomed Witherspoon’s presence in the space as a star-producer who’s “friendly, approachable, a known supporter of female founders and of really empowering women,” Kimmel said. Kimmel is an angel investor and founder of Adam Bomb Squad, maker of one of the NFTs that Witherspoon picked up in December featuring a winking pink Madam Bomb Squad token.
“I’m excited to see women have a much stronger voice and finding ways for women to really use NFTs as their entry point into crypto,” Kimmel said. And it’s not a stretch to imagine that Witherspoon, whose Hello Sunshine production shingle is intentionally invested in IP that amplifies women’s voices and opportunities, might see storytelling potential in her new assets.
As Hollywood explores the tech, NFT backers have their hopes up for the assets to expand their reach and functionality.
“We’re betting on mainstream adoption,” said Fox’s Greenberg. “There’s a lot more utility in NFTs, and composability, where your NFT, multiple NFTs together, do something else. And where owning an NFT gives you access to a physical place in real life, or digital plays, or, like, a subscription to things.”
“We’re gonna see, really, the depths of use with more mainstream opportunities,” he said, and “more functional [uses] than just, ‘What’s this digital thing that I’ve collected?'”