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Entertainment

DearU strives to catch up with leading K-pop fan platform Weverse

All it takes is $4 to send and receive messages from your favorite artists

By Jun 17, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

DearU strives to catch up with leading K-pop fan platform Weverse


Imagine getting this text from your favorite K-pop group member:
“Hey, what did you eat for lunch? Can’t wait to see you at the concert tomorrow.”

What if your favorite artist reads your text message and takes the time to reply? It may sound like a far-fetched dream, but South Korea-based K-pop fan engagement platform DearU Co. has made it possible with its private messaging service, DearU bubble. 

On DearU, users can download the bubble app and pay a monthly fee of 4,500 won ($4) to send and receive messages from their favorite artists. Also, the user interface is designed similar to Kakao Talk, the country's largest messaging app, which makes users feel like they're having private conversations with the artists.

“Fans get a sense of intimacy via the bubble service by sharing their daily activities and getting access to information that may not be public,” said Jung Duk-hyun, a culture critic, explaining that DearU has established a stable revenue model by making use of the subscription economy alongside enhancing fan loyalty.

The company has been making great strides as of late. In the first quarter of this year, DearU swung to a profit for the first time with an operating profit of 3.2 billion won ($2.8 million).

Also earlier this month, major music label JYP Entertertainment acquired a 23.3% stake in DearU for around 21.4 billion won to team up with SM Entertainment and increase its footing in the fan platform market.

DearU is held by SM Studios, a subsidiary of SM Entertainment, which houses popular K-pop artists Red Velvet, EXO, NCT and Super Junior.

FANS FALL HEAD OVER HEELS FOR DEARU BUBBLE

DearU has been shaking up the K-pop fan platform market with its unique private messaging service that has captivated many fans worldwide.

The platform offers a competitive lineup of popular K-pop artists such as Red Velvet, Shinee, EXO and NCT from SM Entertainment girl groups Twice and NiziU from JYP Entertainment.

“JYP betted on DearU's growth potential since the label doesn’t have its own fan platform and acquiring a stake in Weverse would've been too costly,” said an industry official.

The user interface creates a private messaging layout.
The user interface creates a private messaging layout.


Currently, the fan community market is spearheaded by Weverse, the leading fan platform run by HYBE Co., the label behind BTS.

Earlier in January, HYBE acquired a stake valued at around 70 billion won in YG Plus, a subsidiary of the Blackpink label YG Entertainment to create an alliance that would solidify their footing in the fan community market.

Thanks to the partnership, Weverse Company, the operator of Weverse and subsidiary of HYBE, saw its valuation top 1 trillion won.

Also, Korean game publisher NCSoft Corp. rolled out a fan community platform, Universe, although it has yet to be seen as a threat to the existing fan platforms.

But now that SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment have joined forces, Weverse may not be able to hold on to its leading spot given that DearU has been ramping up efforts to emerge as the industry frontrunner. For example, the company has been offering competitive packages to hire the IT industry's top talents.

The high anticipation over DearU's success has been reflected in both SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment's share prices.

On June 16, SM Entertainment's share price closed at 51,400 won, up over 70% compared to a month and a half ago. JYP Entertainment has also seen its share price climb steadily since announcing its partnership with DearU.

Meanwhile, DearU has announced plans to get listed on the country’s junior bourse Kosdaq in the second half of the year.

Write to Soo-Young Seong at syoung@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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