Webtoons, vertically-scrolling comic strips designed to be viewed on smartphones, emerged in South Korea about 15 years ago and have become a major cultural phenomenon across Japan, Korea and much of Southeast Asia.
Webtoons have also been the form of IP underlying many Korean film and TV hits, including Netflix’s “All of Us Are Dead” and “Itaewon Class,” Disney+’s “Moving” and “Dr Brain” for Apple TV+.
Netflix is also on course to produce a series, “Black Knight,” based on Toomics’ original webtoon IP “Delivery Knight.” The sci-fi miniseries, starring A-list actor Kim Woo Bin (“Alienoid”), is expected to premiere this year.
The Terapin-Toomics deal follows a February 2022 acquisition that saw Terapin buy Copin Communications, a Korean webtoon producer.
The two deals together are expected to give Terapin the capacity to take its stable of cartoon creators further into international markets and the ability to negotiate deals for its IP in multiple related or ancillary markets, from animated film and TV, to books, games, merchandize and NFTs.
“A [third party] Korean production company is working with Netflix on ‘Black Knight’,” Samuel Hwang, founder and CEO of NPX Capital, told Variety. “In future productions, we would expect Toomics to be a partner.” Hwang says that the company has also been approached by Hollywood studios and overseas games firms.
Toomics was founded in 2015 and now has some 22 million monthly active users and over 60 million subscribers. Those figures may reflect how many readers follow individual creators and buy single titles. Toomics is growing strongly and claims compound annual growth of 42% between 2018 and 2021. As of January, it had 87 employees, of which 37 are focused on editorial, content, planning and production.
While Toomics ranks behind the three category leaders, which dominate the market in Korea and Japan, the company views the overseas markets as having huge potential and being a more level playing field. They offer vast untapped audiences, which are now increasingly interested in Korean pop culture and also have lower client acquisition costs than the more crowded Japanese and Korean territories.
Toomics already offers its content in multiple languages, with English, French, Italian, and Portuguese its top four. Others include German and Chinese.
In addition to publishing and distribution, Toomics works with creators by providing coloring software, templates for transition between frames and other AI-driven tools.
“Toomics is a leading player that represents Korea’s growth in digital entertainment. The company is not only a platform that connects with tens of millions of viewers, but also a powerhouse of digital content that leverages its own intellectual property and production capabilities,” said Hwang. “I’m certain that Terapin Studios’s acquisition of Toomics will expedite our journey to establish and further strengthen the comprehensive content platform Terapin is creating.”
“This acquisition is especially meaningful as more Korean IPs, which have a proven track record of international success, can now enjoy the infrastructure, funding and support at a global level under the Terapin platform,” said Terapin Studios COO Kah Jonghyun.
NPX was established in 2016 originally as a family office. It evolved into a private equity firm with a “Korea to Global” mission, focused on enabling Korean firms and content to expand internationally.