SpongeBob Digital Collectibles Coming? ViacomCBS Jumps on NFT Bandwagon

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You might soon get the chance to be the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind “SpongeBob SquarePants” digital collectible: ViacomCBS announced that it’s rolling into the market for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs — a craze that has swept across the media and entertainment industry this year.

ViacomCBS announced a strategic partnership with NFT startup Recur to create a “fan-focused platform” that will feature the company’s “iconic IP and cherished franchises.” The new platform, slated to debut in the spring of 2022, will let consumers buy, trade and collect NFTs as digital products and collectibles.

The media conglomerate didn’t disclose which properties it would mint NFTs for, but it’s safe to say “SpongeBob SquarePants” — one of ViacomCBS’s most valuable and enduring franchises — will be in the mix. The company said the NFTs will span brands including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and Showtime.

“Fueled by beloved characters and iconic properties with multigenerational appeal, we are thrilled to accelerate our consumer products presence even further into the growing metaverse,” Pam Kaufman, president of ViacomCBS Consumer Products, said in announcing the pact. “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.”

NFTs provide a way to certify ownership of digital content using distributed blockchain technology. They’ve been around for several years, but hit a tipping point in 2021 after being embraced by a range of music, tech, sports, media, art and entertainment companies. But it’s not clear whether NFTs are a fleeting fad or something that represents the future digital-content ownership.

Recent activity in the space has include TikTok releasing its first official NFT collection, starting with digital collectibles from Lil Nas X earlier this month. WarnerMedia’s DC and Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Fox Corp. also have made moves to ride the NFT wave. Variety also has ventured into NFTs: The publication issued its first nonfungible tokens for the Power of Women: Los Angeles event and announced plans to soon start selling NFTs to the public.

Miami-based Recur designs and develops blockchain experiences that enable NFT transactions. The company says it uses a blockchain-agnostic approach. It was founded earlier this year by crypto entrepreneur Zach Bruch and digital licensing industry exec Trevor George. Recur has raised about $55 million to date, per Crunchbase.

“ViacomCBS is one of the first major media and entertainment companies to enter the metaverse in a significant way,” Bruch and George said in a statement provided by ViacomCBS. “Our chain-agnostic approach will provide fans the widest range of utility as well as unprecedented access to their favorite shows and franchises.”

Recur execs include president Stephen Teglas, former SVP of licensing at Disney; head of engagement Chris Heatherly, former EVP of games for NBCUniversal and SVP of games for Disney; and CTO James Seibel, former director of engineering at crypto asset exchange Poloniex.