Korea-based Webtoon is part of Asian internet giant Naver, best known for its Naver search engine functions and for the Line messaging app. Naver recently paid $600 million to buy online story company Wattpad and also bought a minority stake in HYBE (previously known as Big Hit Entertainment) the firm behind K-pop sensation BTS.
The pacts with DC and HYBE were announced Wednesday at a Webtoon press event and were positioned as part of its new ‘super casting’ initiative.
This aims to create new original web comics and web novels, some in translation, using external IP sourced from global entertainment companies. Operational details were scarce.
Webtoons CEO Kim Jun Koo described the relationships between the companies as “synergistic” as they provide a combination of deep pools of intellectual property with the economies of scale that come from Webtoon’s leadership position in creative tools and animation distribution.
Established in 2014, Webtoon now boasts 166 million monthly average users and a roster of some six million creators. It operates open platforms that mirror YouTube by combining both user generated content and professional-quality material. It earns revenues from advertising, paid content, IP sales and film adaptations.
Kim said that those creators participating in its profit-sharing system (PPS) can earn significant sums. Webtoon’s unnamed top creator earns an annual KRW12.4 billion ($10.6 million), Kim said, while the mean creator earnings through profit share is $238,000 (KRW 280 million). The PPS scheme is to be further built out with web novels, web comics and transmedia.
Netflix fantasy-horror series “Sweet Home” is a live action adaptation, produced by Studio Dragon and adapted from Webtoon subsidiary Studio N’s material. The company said that the original content increased in popularity in other regions after Netflix began streaming the adapted show.
Kim’s presentation included a video message from two of the founders of Wattpad. But they offered little new insight into the development of the jointly-owned Wattpad Webtoon Studios. Last week, Wattpad Webtoon Studios renewed and expanded its content production alliance in Indonesia with local streamer Vidio and production house Screenplay Films. Wattpad has been behind over 100 film and TV series for broadcasters and streamers including Netflix, Sony Pictures Television, Crunchyroll, The Jim Henson Company, Vertigo Entertainment and Constantin Film.
HYBE has grown hugely in scale with the crossover global success of BTS and launched on the stock market nearly a year ago. It has used its share listing to diversify its activities beyond BTS and talent representation and into tech and international markets.