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Movies, dramas become new lucrative business for S. Korean internet companies

Oct. 13, 2019 - 15:25 By Yeo Jun-suk
South Korea’s leading internet firms are seeking to boost their presence in the entertainment industry by capitalizing on online content popular here and overseas.

Using their internet cartoons, K-pop streaming services and other web-based items, Naver and Kakao have been accelerating their efforts to monetize lucrative content by adapting them into movies and dramas.

In addition to establishing drama studios and streaming platforms, the internet giants have acquired stakes in local entertainment companies to enhance cooperation with top artists and social media influencers.

“Based on our business portfolio ranging from music to videos and other items, we will come up with more content that can expand the ecosystem,” said Kim Seong-soo, who leads Kakao’s entertainment unit Kakao M.

Since its establishment in 2016 with the acquisition of Loen Entertainment, Kakao M has been expanding into content production. Popular movie stars -- such as Lee Byung-hun from the megahit drama “Little Ms. Sunshine” -- work with the company.

Kakao M has also made a foray into the film business by acquiring Korean movie studios behind box office hits, including the studio that made “The Spy Gone North” and “Kundo: Age of the Rampant.”

Last month, the company announced it had attracted investments from movie stars and social media influencers. Actors Hyun Bin and Lee Min-ho, stylist Han Hye-yeon and other influencers participated in the fundraising worth 68.8 billion won ($57.5 million)

“As a member and shareholder of Kakao M, the participants would share a greater sense of responsibility for the company’s business operations,” said Kakao M. “It would help us (create) quality content across various platforms.”

Meanwhile, Naver’s content production firm Studio N has been coming up with popular TV shows. TV adaptations based on Naver’s megahit internet cartoons, like “Hell is Other People,” have gained popularity among the young generations.

In August, the company launched a live music-streaming service featuring K-pop singers such as Kang Daniel from boy band Wanna One. Users can enjoy 24-hour music shows via the Now service on Naver’s mobile app.

Given that web-based content is not restrained by the formats of traditional broadcasting and movie production systems, industry watchers said this could attract more consumers by adapting to the changing industrial landscape.

“There are no restrictions for our content format,” said a Kakao M official. “We are seeking to create original content that goes beyond traditional TV dramas aired by terrestrial broadcasters and films released at movie theaters.”

By Yeo Jun-suk (