OTTAWA—“Miss Masky,” the collectible NFT (Non-Fungible Token) digital image created by Fox Entertainment’s “Masked Singer” TV show, has launched North American TV broadcasters into the blockchain age. On Oct. 13, Fox offered 10,000 free “Miss Masky’ Genesis Edition NFTs to the general public through its website (www.maskverse.com). In less than 10 hours, all 10,000 had been claimed and a second 10,000 NFT run had been announced.
NFTs have gotten a lot of attention lately and the television industry is not immune to the phenomenon. But what are NFTs anyways?
“An NFT is a kind of certificate, and it uses a blockchain [distributed online register] to track the authentic ownership record of something,” said John Footen, Deloitte Consulting’s managing director of media technology and operations and former contributor to TV Tech. “When it is sold, the following transaction regarding that digital ownership certificate shows the new owner.
“That record is transparent and can be checked by anyone,” he continues. “The actual digital art can still be accessed by anyone, but now the official ownership and rights have transferred to a new party who can then use or resell them as they wish.”
The fact that Fox Entertainment has released Miss Masky NFTs commercially is significant because it launches the network’s content into this digital media marketplace. Although Miss Masky was free, the network is now making money by selling “Mask Packs” containing three more limited edition “MaskVerse” NFTs for $20 apiece.
WHY MISS MASKY MATTERS
The release of Miss Masky NFTs, Mask Packs, and the launch of www.maskverse.com are the latest steps by Fox Entertainment and its partnership with Bento Box Entertainment animation studio to capitalize on public interest (and possible demand) for NFTs. To do so, the partners have formed Blockchain Creative Labs and bankrolled a $100 million “creator fund” to find opportunities for NFT sales.
Fox has also taken a minority stake in the blockchain application development/management company Eluvio, which is providing the IT infrastructure and “media wallets” being used by MaskVerse members to collect, trade and sell their NFTs.
The media wallet—which is an application of the Eluvio platform—is both a crypto wallet and a personal application for the user to experience the NFTs that they collect, which can be any form of media from stills and short clips to animations and long form video, according to Michelle Munson, Eluvio’s CEO/co-founder.
“This wallet is built for everybody to be able to use,” she said. “Hopefully it will allow people in general to enjoy the benefits not only of crypto and blockchain technology, but also to be active participants in owning their own media.”
This last point is the real significance of Fox’s Miss Masky NFTs: They are motivating fans of “The Masked Singer” to become active, paying participants in the NFT marketplace. And if fans can be motivated to buy MaskVerse NFTs, they can be convinced to buy NFTs associated with other Fox programs as well—which is precisely what Fox Entertainment has in mind.
“Fox plans to build not only on ‘The Masked Singer’ media property, but across their entire business,” said Munson. “This is why Fox has made such a deep investment into this area. They do absolutely believe that the commercial opportunity associated with NFTs is so significant that it will reshape the future of the industry.”
CNN GIVES VIEWERS CHANCE TO ‘OWN HISTORY’
Fox isn’t alone in seeking to capitalize on NFTs. CNN has also entered this market through the launch of “Vault by CNN” (https://vault.cnn.com/).
“Vault by CNN is CNN’s new NFT business, which offers digital collectibles to commemorate pivotal moments in history,” said Jason Novack, CNN senior director of emerging products. The allure of claiming proprietorship of such moments [as covered by CNN] is made explicitly clear on the Vault by CNN’s homepage. “Presidential elections, space discoveries, CNN exclusives and more: Anyone can own a piece of history,” it reads.
According to Novack, the desire to “own history” is nothing new.
“There are long traditions of collecting newspapers and historic memorabilia, as well as using collectible media to host discussions like book signings and art gallery openings,” he said. “Our NFTs are a platform for digital experiences that spark conversations around the events we cover and the impact they have on us all.”
“We find that our collectors buy our NFTs for a variety of reasons,” Novack added. “Some love the art. Some have a personal connection to the moment. Some just love CNN and our coverage of those moments. And some seem to be in it to speculate on the future value… so far we’ve sold NFTs of six different historical moments covering technological advances, U.S. presidential elections, foreign wars and advancements in human rights.”
“Miss Masky” and “Vault by CNN” are the first drops in what is likely to be a flood of content-related NFTs. After all, since NFTs confer the mantle of legal possession upon their owners, the possibilities for their creation and sales are huge. For instance, there is no reason why ViacomCBS could not create and sell NFTs derived from every episode of “Star Trek” ever made—right down to individual frames.
“A collectibles market is arising that is becoming quite valuable already,” noted Deloitte’s Footen. As well, “NFTs represent potentially significant new business models for content companies. Content makers can use NFTs to help fund new projects by selling off rights related to that content in essentially endless ways.”
“NFTs certainly give broadcasters and distributors new opportunities, but we’re even more excited about the autonomy that NFTs provide for content creators,” added Stephanie Pereira, vice president of creator success for Rally, an online provider of NFTs for content creators. “Creators have historically had to rely on these other entities to distribute and monetize their content. With NFTs, the power balance is more evenly distributed and creators have more input and financial leverage over their content.”
Of course, this could all go awry if too many broadcast-related NFTs are released at the same time, thus oversaturating the market and driving down demand.
“I would argue that the traditional NFT marketplace has already done that,” said Munson. “If you look at what’s already in terms of the classical static and clip kinds of marketplaces, there are so many of them out there now and they have millions of NFTs for sale at this point.”
That said, if broadcasters and creators show restraint by only releasing limited numbers of NFTs tied to content that fans really care about, then the profit potential for this market seems strong and destined to grow over time.
“‘Miss Masky’ is really just the tip of the spear of what I think is possible,” Munson concluded. “It’s the beginning of a new type of fan experience.”