Apple is betting. About Korean web comics to bring to life on the Books app.
The Cupertino, California-based company has signed an exclusive three-year contract with a South Korean startup. Kinase in December for an online comics show called webtoons. The new content launched in Japan last month and will expand to all 51 countries in which the books are available, according to the company. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.
Webtoons are Korea’s favorite way to consume digital comics and have inspired many international hits to the country from dark zombie comics. We are all dead Monsters Epic Beautiful house. The format, which allows users to scroll through very short episodes in color on their phone or computer, has been around for decades. Unlike traditional manga or comics, authors draw webtoons to calculate the screen space created by a single swipe down on the device. In Japan, this genre is known as “tate-yomi-manga”, or reading manga vertically.
“North America doesn’t really have a major player in webtoons yet,” said Woody Lee, founder and CEO of Kenaz. “Apple Books has the opportunity to very quickly become a competitive player in this space.”
Global interest in Korean entertainment has grown in recent years with the emergence of series such as Squid game And the Oscar-winning movie parasite. The American Film Association held its Hollywood Executives Summit in Washington last month to take advantage of Korean President Yoon Seok Yul’s visit to the United States and discuss cooperation.
Read more: Hollywood executives flock to Washington to meet the Korean president
In September, executives wrote that Detector Zafar and Sasha Norkin flew to Seoul to discuss the Kinase deal for three days before making a final call, according to Lee.
It’s been a while since Apple introduced a new service for the Books app, which didn’t get huge investment from other services like Apple Music and Apple TV. Lee said Apple had considered webtoons as a potential addition to its portfolio for more than two years before entering into detailed discussions with Kenaz.
Apple’s move to tap into the webtoon market underscores the growing popularity of this category. This follows a decision by Amazon.com Inc. in March to launch nifty webtoons on Kindle for Japanese users. In Asia, the Korean companies Naver Corp and Kakao Corp are among the largest distributors, while Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chinese and ByteDance Ltd. Also for webtoon services.
Lee said Apple would likely choose Kenaz over bigger players like Naver and Kakao — who publish webtoons on their cutting-edge platform — to ensure access to original content without any distribution disputes. The founder expects that about 30% of Kanaz’s first Webtoons books will be published through Apple Books. Kinase, home to about 140 authors, was valued at 86 billion won ($65 million) in its latest funding round. The company is planning another funding round later this year and will go public next year.
Kinase is now working with David Franzoni, who has written blockbuster Hollywood movies wrestler, to recreate the story of the webtoon series. The startup is also working with the famous French writer Bernard Werber to transform it ants Trilogy of Novels in Online Comics. He told me that the webtoon service for Apple Books will launch in North America in the near future.
“There is a huge demand for original IP content these days,” he told me. “The new hot topic in the content market is identifying an IP story with growth potential and creating an entire value chain out of it.”
— with the help of Sohee Kim.