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Wrestling enters the NFT Ring

WWE makes it’s move into the NFT Space, with an interesting caveat.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) just announced, on the eve of Wrestlemania 37, a major watershed moment in its business: The first WWE NFT release, around one of its most iconic characters, the Undertaker.

The Undertaker is an entity in wrestling and a registered trademark (Reg. No. 4930215). The Phenom, as he is known, has been a mainstay of professional wrestling and television screens in the U.S. for over a quarter of a century. WWE owns the rights to the character, every match, every moment, and now they are finding a new way to capitalize on this – through NFTs.

A sports and entertainment company moving into the NFT space is nothing new. NBA’s NFT experiment with Dapper Technologies has been a tremendous success, raking in over $230 Million in just a few months, and with one Lebron James Moment selling for $208,000. What makes the WWE NFT format unique is the benefits that come with it.

Tiered NFTs – Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze

According to the WWE press release, the NFTs to be sold come in tiers: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. While Bronze and Silver are more traditional NFTss, including a moment (it has not been described if this will be a video or a gif, or something else) of the Undertaker’s legendary career. The Gold and Platinum tiers are where it gets interesting. On top of including an exclusive digital moment, each tier comes with future access to a WWE Event (Front row seats to Smackdown and Raw for Gold, and Front row seats to Wrestlemania’s 38 and 39), behind the scenes access, hotel accommodations for the events, a personalized WWE Championship belt or side plates, a video message from the Undertaker, and for the Platinum Winner, the Urn used by Undertaker’s late manager, Paul Bearer. That last part is basically a holy grail for Wrestling fans. WWE Memorabilia can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the value for the urn on its own far surpasses that $10,000 starting bid price for the Platinum edition. WWE is taking its digital content and more importantly, the wrestling entertainment experiences go alongside its digital content.

The Bitski Marketplace

WWE chose to utilize Bitski as its NFT drop marketplace. So let’s take a look at their terms of services as far content ownership goes. Bitski defines “Content” as “text, graphics, images, music, software, audio, video, works of authorship of any kind, and information or other materials that are posted, generated, provided or otherwise made available through [Bitski].”  They also define “User Content” as “any Content that Account holders (including you) provide to be made available through the Services. Content includes without limitation User Content.” 

It is important to note that Bitski does not claim any ownership rights in any User Content (your content). However, by making any User Content available through Bitski, the Account holder grants Bitski a non-exclusive, transferable, worldwide, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, modify, create derivative works based upon, distribute, publicly display, and publicly perform your User Content in connection with operating and providing the Services and Content to you and to other Account holders.  The nature of NFTs sort of requiring this non-exclusive license and a sublicense for the derivative works to maintain the work on the Bitski platform beyond the initial sale. WWE would have to give Bitski a license to maintain the WWE moments on the blockchain with the ability to continuously resell the NFT moments.

WWE is no stranger to forward-thinking in terms of the digitalization of its product. They went full steam ahead with the WWE Network in 2013, completely eroding their pay-per-view model almost overnight. In recent months, WWE has looked for greater control of its Superstars digital content output, via cameo and twitch, both as a revenue-generating tool for the company, as well as helping to amplify its global digital reach. It was never a matter of if WWE would break ground with NFT’s, but WHEN.

The Hybrid NFT Model for Venues

What WWE can offer, and expect major sports and entertainment companies to follow suit, is this “hybrid NFT model” of a digital moment with some tangible or real-life experiential benefit attached. How about a Stone Cold Steve Austin NFT that comes with a trip to his Broken Skull Ranch? A Hulk Hogan NFT that includes his original gear from one of his Wrestlemania matches? A Rock NFT that includes his iconic elbow pads and sunglasses? The possibilities for a company like WWE, with so much in-house content and rich entertainment history, are endless.

What we may see soon is a wave of imitations from major sports and entertainment venues. Expect ticket packages to migrate towards tiered NFT options like WWE’s Platinum to Bronze. Imagine buying a Lebron James NFT, and it comes with frontcourt seats and a meet and greets with the man himself. It was likely inevitable that some company or sport was going to try this hybrid model soon, and WWE happened to be the trendsetter. They were smart for releasing this just in time for Wrestlemania, their biggest event of the year.

Contact Karana IP

If you are an artist considering selling works on NFTs, the need for protecting your intellectual property works have never been greater. If you need help with copyrights, trademarks, or NFTs, contact Karana IP Law for help navigating this new and exciting space.

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