Ok-Pop and Korean Stars Poised for Shakeup through SM Leisure Sale

A number of months again Lee Soo-man appeared on stage on the 2021 World Cultural Trade Discussion board and boasted of his formative position within the Korean pop trade. “Ok-pop began with SM Leisure,” he declared. However already the Ok-pop firmament is preparing for a brand new king.

SM Leisure has formally put a 20% stake up on the market, together with Lee’s personal 18% holding. Main conglomerates are on the point of take up the mantle, with the purpose of propelling themselves and Ok-pop additional onto the world stage.

Lee and his SM Leisure had been certainly early pioneers with first-generation Ok-pop acts together with H.O.T., TVXQ, BoA and Ladies’ Era. With rival businesses YG Leisure and JYP Leisure, Ok-pop emerged within the late Nineteen Nineties and loved export success in Japan.

After enduring disaster situations within the early 2000s, the trade embraced YouTube, loved wider worldwide success, and settled into a well-known sample of three-way dominance by the businesses that arduously groomed, tightly managed and had been intently recognized with their creations. YG loved success with Huge Bang and 2NE1. JYP triumphed with Surprise Ladies and 2PM.

With the emergence of BTS in 2016, the three fiefdoms grew to become 4. The band’s international success remodeled the fortunes of former JYP govt Bang Si-hyuk and his Huge Hit Leisure (just lately renamed Hybe Corp.) that had toiled in relative obscurity since 2008.

Hybe has already utilized its BTS-powered momentum to amass smaller music labels, construct its personal Weverse digital platform for followers (and monetization), and conduct an insanely common IPO in late 2020.

The corporate then went a step additional than any Korean artist administration agency and took an enormous leap abroad, shopping for Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings for $1 billion. That brings English-language stars Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato into its universe, whereas additionally additional increasing alternatives for its Korean acts corresponding to Seventeen and Nu’est.

Hybe additionally bolstered its digital capabilities by attracting a $363 million funding from Korean web big Naver into its beNX digital improvement unit. It cemented a partnership with Common Music. And, in an additional signal of the altering occasions, Hybe additionally struck a cooperation cope with YG Plus (previously Phoenix Holdings), a music distributor and expertise company below YG Leisure.

Like Hybe, SM Leisure has additionally tried to evolve. And in doing so could have pulled forward of YG and JYP.

SM Leisure has leaned into TV originals, collaborated with MGM and Mark Burnett for “Ok-Pop Goes Hollywood,” established SM Studios and revealed plans to create extra AR and VR-integrated content material. Its Expensive u Bubble, a direct fan-to-artist messaging app, obtainable on subscription and boasting greater than 150 artists, together with some from JYP, is a direct competitor to Hybe’s Weverse.

These make SM Leisure a horny conquest for a rich new entrant into the inside circle of the Ok-pop realm.

Korean media, supposedly citing finance trade sources, have recognized Korea’s different web big Kakao Corp and diversified media group CJ CNM because the front-runners. Hybe could also be an additional step behind.

The alternatives are sharply contrasted.

CJ, producer of Oscar-winner “Parasite” and majority proprietor of TV manufacturing powerhouse Studio Dragon, has deep roots in movie and TV, however solely a modest footprint in pop (it controls broadcaster Mnet and tvN and an annual music awards present) and administration. In latest months, CJ has set out bold plans to outspend Netflix in Korean drama manufacturing, for its Tving to displace Netflix as Korea’s No. 1 video streamer, and to turn into a world content material hub that’s on equal phrases with the streaming period’s new royalty Netflix, Disney, Amazon and WarnerMedia. A chunk of SM Leisure might assist these — or be a diversification too far.

Kakao Corp. arrived at media and leisure having grown to dominate Korea’s messaging scene with its Kakao Discuss app. Its Kakao Leisure division was shaped this 12 months from a merger of a number of parts which have been acquired or grown organically. These embody a big internet cartoon enterprise, eight expertise administration subsidiaries, 4 music labels and a string of drama, movie and efficiency manufacturing corporations. Proudly owning a bit of SM Leisure could ship the killer content material that some commentators recommend that Kakao Leisure nonetheless lacks.

Outstanding Korean media report that CJ and its guru, vice chairwoman Miky Lee because the entrance runners. However Kakao, valued at KRW55 trillion ($47 billion) doubtless has the deeper pockets.

Lee Soo-man could not be the king, however he could but be the king-maker.

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