Meet the Reality Studio Betting Big on NFT TV

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Meet the Reality Studio Betting Big on NFT TV
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The production company behind reality TV hits like “The Real World” is now entering the brave new world of NFTs.

Glendale-based Bunim/Murray Productions is teaming with tech startup Virtual Arts to form Wonderfuel, a joint venture that will create NFT-backed programming. Wonderfuel plans to sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that give fans perks and prizes that could include access to the shows’ stars or unedited clips from episodes. Proceeds from the NFT sales may help fund future programming, the companies said Wednesday.


“We see NFTs as a new way to help fan engagement, beyond just funding the series,” Steve Ezell, Bunim/Murray’s senior vice president of current programming, told dot.LA. “The utility that they provide is going to allow for experiences that traditional linear television currently doesn’t allow for.”

The idea is not without precedent. Ezell pointed to “Stoner Cats,” a weed-themed online cartoon series from actress Mila Kunis’ production company. The show, only accessible to NFT holders, reportedly raised $8.3 million worth of crypto.

Wonderfuel isn’t going that far; it still plans to distribute shows to the masses through traditional TV and streaming partners, in addition to yet unnamed Web3 platforms. The venture plans to announce funding from investors in the coming weeks.

Bunim/Murray is the studio behind popular unscripted series including “The Real World,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and “The Challenge.” Virtual Arts, an Austin-based developer of a dance competition platform called DanceFight, is a part of a startup accelerator that has helped it incorporate NFTs within its own platform. The two companies previously discussed developing a dance show that did not come to fruition, Virtual Arts co-founder Ryan Jordan told dot.LA.

Ezell and Jordan declined to share details about Wonderfuel’s shows or the price of the NFTs it will sell. They said Virtual Arts will mint Wonderfuel’s NFTs and design a platform that will let fans engage with shows in a variety of ways, possibly including casting auditions for fans wanting to join the shows. NFT owners could get involved in creative decisions, they said.

The NFT market surpassed $40 billion last year, according to one recent estimate. Entertainment companies in the music, movie and gaming industries have been quick to get in on the action—even if the jury is still out on whether NFTs are just a fad or viable long-term investments. Earlier this week, a Beverly Hills-based blockchain startup unveiled a $3.6 million seed round to launch NFT projects for brands and celebrities.

Update, March 17: This story has been updated to include comment from Bunim/Murray Productions and Virtual Arts.

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