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Entertainment

Korean OTT platform TVing to go abroad with Naver's LINE

TVing sets sights on Japan, Taiwan and US for 2022-2023 global expansion

By Oct 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

TVing co-CEO Jay Yang (left) and co-CEO Rhee Myung-han at an Oct. 18 media session
TVing co-CEO Jay Yang (left) and co-CEO Rhee Myung-han at an Oct. 18 media session

South Korea's over-the-top (OTT) streaming platform TVing Co. will make its inroads into Japan and Taiwan next year and into the US in 2023, tapping the overseas subscribers of South Korean online giant Naver Corp. and global strategic partners. 

TVing, 67.61% owned by South Korea's entertainment powerhouse CJ ENM Co., hopes to capitalize on the global success of K-content ranging from TV series and movies to pop groups, including Netflix's mega-hit drama "Squid Game." 

"Starting with Japan and Taiwan in 2022, we will enter the US market in 2023," Jay Yang, TVing's co-chief executive, said in an online media session on Oct. 18. "We will join hands with LINE and global companies to build our footprint in the global OTT market." 

He did not identify the global companies with whom it will work for global expansion.

Naver’s Japan-based subsidiary LINE Corp. runs a popular LINE messaging service in Japan where it also operates LINE Manga, a webtoon service. As a first step to penetrate into Japan's OTT service market, TVing will target the 200 million users of LINE messaging app across 230 countries.

"We signed a memorandum of understanding with Naver to cooperate for global expansion, for which both companies set up a task force team," Yang told the session, held on the occasion of its first anniversary of being spun off from CJ ENM.

Since its hive-off from CJ ENM in October 2020, TVing has produced 25 pieces of original content, with the number of its paid users trebling to 2 million.

But it is still trailing Netflix and hometown rival Wavve, whose paid subscribers in South Korea total 4 million and over 2 million. 

"In 2022, we would like you to focus on our new TV series," said co-CEO Rhee Myung-han. "We will be at the forefront of Korean OTT companies' globalization by producing large-scale TV series like movies. Making original and killer content will be key to our business success."

To global audiences, TVing will also provide foreign companies' content. 

Aiming to become the Marvel Studios of Asia, TVing will produce around 100 pieces of original content by 2023, by which it plans to quadruple its subscriber number to 8 million. The targeted subscriber number does not reflect its global expansion, Rhee added.

Its parent CJ ENM in June announced a plan to spend 5 trillion won on original content over the next five years, in the largest amount of spending plans by a South Korean content maker so far.
Squid Game has topped the global Netflix chart for the first time for a Korean drama series.
Squid Game has topped the global Netflix chart for the first time for a Korean drama series.


The heavy spending plan comes as Disney Plus is set to launch its South Korean service next month, offering an extensive array of content from Disney and its subsidiaries, including Pixar, National Geographic and Marvel Entertainment. 

Other global OTT players, including Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime and HBO Max, are preparing to land in South Korea as well. 

PARTNERSHIP WITH NAVER

TVing and its parent CJ ENM have been cementing business partnerships with Naver since the start of this year.

Naver is now the second-largest shareholder with about a 15% stake in TVing. It has invested about 60 billion won in the OTT platform, including its participation in the latter's rights offering worth 150 billion won this month.

The stake purchase followed a 240-billion-won joint purchase by Naver and CJ ENM of the country's leading web novel platform Munpia Inc. with CJ ENM earlier this year.

TVing will be able to use Naver's intellectual property content to create TV series and films.

Naver CEO Han Seong-sook said in a video speech during the TVing's media event: "We will make efforts to help TVing produce differentiated and originative content, with our abundant IP rights of webtoons and web novels."

Naver has already rolled out subscription services to watch TVing's releases since March of this year. 
TVing's new drama series Yumi's Cells, based on a Naver webtoon of the same name
TVing's new drama series Yumi's Cells, based on a Naver webtoon of the same name


SMART TVs, ADDITIONAL CAPITAL RAISING

On home turf, TVing is working on having its app installed on smart TVs manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and other home appliance makers from next year.

"We are discussing various cooperation measures with Samsung Electronics, the world's No.1 TV maker, including adding a TVing home button (on smart TVs)," co-CEO Yang told reporters.

To fund its global expansion, TVing is in the process of raising 300 billion won ($255 million) in a pre-IPO share sale, managed by Nomura Securities. The new funding round will likely value the OTT platform at 1.5 trillion-2 trillion won, according to investment banking sources.

Separately, CJ ENM is in exclusive talks to acquire a controlling stake in SM Entertainment Co., the country's first-generation music label and widely credited as the pioneer of K-pop.

Write to Hee-kyung Kim at hkkim@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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