Big Hit Entertainment, the South Korean company behind mega-star group BTS, is making strategic moves to try to boost its position in the K-pop world.
The company said Wednesday (Jan. 27) that it would invest 70 billion won ($63 million) in a subsidiary of one of its biggest competitors, fellow K-pop agency YG Entertainment, in a “strategic collaboration” meant to create synergy by leveraging artist IPs in a wide range of ventures.
Big Hit also said it would strengthen its fan community platform by joining forces with Naver, which is investing 354.8 billion won ($320 million) in beNX, a technology subsidiary of Big Hit, through a third-party capital increase and beNX’s acquisition of Naver’s V LIVE division.
Big Hit’s board approved both moves at its Jan. 27 board meeting, according to press releases.
The moves come after Big Hit went public in October on the South Korean stock exchange. While its shares initially struggled, falling more than 20% in the second day of trading after its initial IPO price of 135,000 won ($118), they closed at 207,500 ($187) on Wednesday.
Despite having the biggest act in K-pop, BTS, Big Hit has long trailed K-pop leader SM Entertainment, home to NCT 127 and EXO. But Big Hit led YG Entertainment, home to girl group BLACKPINK, in 2019 revenue with 587 billion won ($530 million) versus YG’s 265 billion won ($239 million), according to Statista.
Big Hit has used its proprietary Weverse, a mobile app and web platform it launched in 2019, to build a massive global community for its content. Weverse hosts free and subscription multimedia content and artist-to-fan communications for musicians, including BTS video content like the docu-series Break The Silence, which premiered exclusively on Weverse. The app hit 10 million downloads last July and has more than 1.4 million followers, beNX, which developed the app, has said.
Under terms of the deal with YG, Big Hit is investing in YG PLUS, a subsidiary that focuses on global artist-membership-related businesses. YG PLUS will leverage Weverse to reach out to more global fans while supporting Big Hit’s music distribution and merchandising businesses. Of the total investment of 70 billion won, Big Hit is contributing 30 billion won ($27 million), with beNX putting in 40 billion won ($36 million).
The Naver deal involves Big Hit cooperating with Naver, South Korea’s dominant search engine, to create a new global fan community platform that integrates users, content and services of Weverse and V LIVE. Big Hit will bring its know-how in the entertainment market to bear, with Naver focusing on the technology.
Naver will acquire additional stakes in beNX, with the funds made available through the transfer of V LIVE to become the second largest shareholder of beNX.
Big Hit’s board on Wednesday also voted to change the name of beNX to Weverse Company.
“In order to expand influence in the global market, we need to go beyond competition between domestic platforms and closely cooperate between competitive platforms that can create synergy,” Naver says in a press release. “The new global fan community platform will become an unrivaled player in the global entertainment market by adding K-content to the globally competitive K-technology.”