KakaoPage and Tencent: Joint-venture Tapping into Chinese Market

South Korea’s leading webtoon platform KakaoPage has joined hands with China’s tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. to tap into the Chinese market. It is announced that the two giants have agreed to set up a joint venture to launch a fresh content platform from 2021.

KakaoPage, the popular app that offers webtoons and novels under Kakao Corp., will supply content for the new JV platform, which will be directly managed by Tencent but not exactly Tencent Animation & Comic department. According to the source, the two parties are also reviewing Kakao Page’s intellectual property business that sells IP adaptation rights into films, dramas, games and other content mediums.

“KakaoPage is equipped with a huge portfolio of intellectual property (IP) with over 7,000 pieces of work,” said an official at Kakao. “We entered the Chinese market through establishing a joint venture in order to avoid regulatory risks that may stem from the Chinese government,” said an industry source.

Source: JTBC's Itaewon Class, a popular webtoon adapted into a drama series

According to The Korea Economy Daily, the joint-venture seems to be a natural progression for the two companies as they have already engaged in years of collaboration. In 2012, these two comics platforms strengthened their business ties by strategic investment. Following year In 2013, Tencent became the third-largest shareholder of KakaoPage when its investment arm Skyblue Creative Investment Pte. Ltd acquired a 6.78% stake in the Korean content company. In 2017 alone, Kakao Page provided nearly 20 webtoon IP works to Tencent’s comics platform. Hot on the heels came Kakao decided to join force with Tencent to tap into the Chinese Content market.

Meanwhile Kakao Page is moving fast to expand its global content operations, its webtoon app Piccoma has seen some success in Japan despite arriving late than its industry peers. It also has boosted its presence in the US market by acquiring an additional 29.6% stake in Tapas Media, a US-based digital comics platform.

Its success is owing to its ability to upload new episodes on a weekly basis, more frequently, and its plans to spearhead the market with webtoons that have already achieved success in Korea, maximizing IP utilization. Given its previous success in oversea markets, China surely will be an attractive market for Kakao Page, and it aspires to expand to a global IP business.

According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the Chinese content market expects to post 5.65% yearly growth until 2023. As of this year, it stands at around $388.3 billion ($351 million), coming second to the US. Meanwhile, Korea’s content market ranks the 7th, accounting around $69.2 billion.

“Chinese audiences are loyal when it comes to familiar IP content, as demonstrated in the success of the Chinese drama “Crossfire” starring top star Luhan, which was dramatised based on Smilegate’s CrossFire e-game,” and “The JV is likely to become a highly profitable company if it offers well-made intellectual property via webtoons,” said an industry source.

“We are working hard to take off as a global content company that can reach the level of Disney in the content market,” said a Kakao official.