With the acquisition of SM Entertainment by Kakao now complete, attention is turning to Hive's next move as it competed for control. Industry insiders predict that Hive's "platform cooperation" could involve some SM singers joining the fan community platform Weverse.
Although the K-pop market has now been reorganized into a two-way alliance between Hive and Kakao on one side and SM on the other, some cooperation between the two camps could still take place.
According to industry insiders, Hive's agreement with Kakao, which was reached on the previous day, involved Kakao taking management rights over SM and Hive providing platform cooperation.
Hive has not said much about what this platform cooperation might entail, stating only that it is preparing for practical cooperation.
The music industry is particularly interested in Weverse, which Hive is promoting as a core future business. It is expected that some of SM's most popular K-pop stars may join Weverse.
Weverse is a platform where fans can post articles and photos related to their favorite singers, and singers can communicate with fans by posting their latest updates. It is particularly powerful when integrated with the streaming service VLive, which was added last year, as it allows for real-time video communication.
Weverse's monthly active users (MAU) increased by approximately 21% from 6.9 million in the third quarter of 2022 to 8.4 million in the fourth quarter. The number of artist channels rose from 36 at the end of 2021 to 78 at the end of 2022.
If popular SM singers such as Aespa and NCT join Weverse, the platform's importance in the K-pop world could rise to the next level. Using Weverse Live, a real-time streaming service, could help increase users and sales on the platform.
However, it is likely that the fan communication service Bubble, which SM singers have previously used, will remain unchanged. Bubble focuses on interactive communication, which is different from Weverse, so the two services can coexist.
It is not yet confirmed whether SM singers will join the company. The new management, which will be launched after the SM regular shareholders' meeting scheduled for the end of this month, will decide.
Therefore, it may take some time for Hive and Kakao's platform cooperation to materialize. Additionally, sensitive interests such as live concert broadcasting, MD (goods product) sales, and album sales may be complicated during the detailed consultation process, which could lead to a recurrence of a tight tug-of-war.
With Kakao's acquisition of SM, the music industry is expected to reorganize into a "two-way structure" with Hive and Kakao on one side and the SM alliance with BTS, SEVENTEEN, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, ENHYPEN, and Newjeans on the other.
Under Kakao Entertainment, there are K-pop agencies such as Idam Entertainment, which represents IU, Starship Entertainment (Ive, K-Will, etc.), Antenna (Yoo Hee-yeol, Peppertones, etc.), IST Entertainment (Apink, THE BOYZ, etc.), and High-Up Entertainment (STAYC).
Previously, the lineup of singers under Kakao Entertainment was strong in Korea but had relatively little influence overseas. However, the addition of SM's K-pop stars such as Aespa, NCT, and EXO is expected to create a solid lineup that will encompass both domestic and foreign markets.
It is anticipated that Hive, Kakao, and SM will collaborate in essential areas and expand the K-pop market "pie" through healthy competition.
Established players in the conventional K-pop market, such as JYP and YG, are also expected to strengthen their positions by discovering new talent and exploring international markets to avoid falling behind.
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