SEOUL — The web comics wing of South Korea’s internet service giant Naver has partnered with TBS, a media enterprise in Japan, and Japan’s webtoon publisher Shine Partners to launch a joint venture that would create synergy by recreating popular web cartoons into dramas, films, and other content. The joint venture will target Japan’s rapidly growing webtoon market which stood at $4.7 billion in 2020.
Webtoons, also known as web comics, are digital comic books optimized for smart device ecosystems. Webtoon service models are based on a free-to-read system in which readers can pay digital coins to read the latest episodes of comics or web novels. South Korea became the birthplace of webtoons in the early 2000s and K-webtoon content has been recreated into various world-popular content formats including films, dramas and novels. Netflix’s popular drama series “Squid Games” and “Kingdom” were based on South Korean webtoons.
Japan with the world’s largest comic book and animation market estimated to stand at $36.26 billion by 2025 is centered on fans who crave traditional comics and cartoons. The country’s webtoon market has bloomed only during the last decade thanks to the popularization of smart devices including smartphones and tablet PCs. Naver Webtoon and Piccoma, the Japanese webtoon subsidiary of South Korea’s web service giant Kakao, are top webtoon service providers in Japan.
Naver Webtoon said that the company partnered with TBS and Shine Partners to launch “Studio Toon,” a webtoon-based media joint venture, in South Korea in May. Studio Toon will play the role of a media studio that creates webtoons and converts popular webtoon content into video content. Web comics created by Studio Toon will be serviced through Naver Webtoon’s global service while TBS releases video content versions in Japan.
“Webtoons are intellectual properties that can lead content businesses. Through collaboration with TBS, we will showcase a variety of fun webtoons,” Naver Webtoon CEO Kim Jun-koo said in a statement.
The webtoon joint venture is part of Naver’s bridgehead into Japan’s content market. Naver webtoon agreed with Studio Dragon, the film and drama content-making wing of South Korea’s media giant CJ ENM, on May 12 to set up a joint content studio venture in Japan in 2022.
Through a 30 billion won ($23.3 million) project, Naver and CJ ENM will target Japan’s domestic drama content market which normally focuses on homemade dramas instead of content that target the overseas TV market or globally serviced over-the-top (OTT) services. Naver analyzed that the potential for the growth of the premium original intellectual property-based drama market in Japan is very high.
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