Kakao Enetertainment merges two American subsidiaries to compete with domestic rival

By Lim Chang-won Posted : May 19, 2022, 15:22 Updated : May 19, 2022, 15:22

[Courtesy of Kakao]

SEOUL -- The content and entertainment wing of South Korea's web service giant Kakao expanded an unyielding turf war with its domestic archrival from Asia to North America by merging two American webtoon and web novel platform subsidiaries into a new entity to create synergy and become a leading player in the storytelling industry.

Tapas Media, an American snack culture content provider known as "YouTube of Comics," and Radish Media, a U.S.-based web novel platform, will be combined and reborn as a new corporation. The strategic merger reflects Kakao Entertainment's strategy to grow into a global intellectual property company based on rapid growth in some Asian countries. 
Kakao Entertainment said it is now ready to aggressively operate a novel-comics system in North America. Noble comics refers to producing popular web novels as webtoons. Intellectual properties to be introduced by the merged corporation will be reborn as videos, games, and animations. 

The new corporation covers three platforms -- Tapas, Radish and Radish's subsidiary Wuxiaworld which maintains a strong base of male fantasy readers. Wuxiaworld is a U.S.-based Asian fantasy web novel platform founded in 2014 by former U.S. diplomat Lai Jingping who goes by his pen name Ren Woxing. 

"The merger will serve as momentum to accelerate the growth of our North American business," Kakao Entertainment CEO Lee Jin-soo said in a statement on May 19. Lee's company vowed to solidify its status as a global entertainment leader and become the No. 1 operator in North America by expanding its strong intellectual property value chain and story spectrum.

"The merger will be a turning point that will lead to the evolution of the North American storytelling industry beyond a simple combination between platforms,"  Lee said, adding that the unique intellectual properties (IPs) of Tapas, Radish and Wuxiaworld would  be combined with Kakao Entertainment's Korean IP to build a strong "IP pipeline." 

The merged corporation is focusing on expanding source IPs to areas such as audio content, metaverse, and non-fungible tokens, Kakao Entertainment said, suggesting Radish would introduce audiobooks targeting the rapidly growing audio content market in North America. 
Tapas and Radish have established some 100,000 creators locally. Kakao Entertainment would carry out more aggressive and effective promotion and IP planning by combining the know-how and long-term vision of professionals. 

South Korea is the birthplace of webtoons, which are digital comic books optimized for smart device ecosystems. Two leading webtoon companies, Kakao Entertainment and Naver Webtoon, have been locked in fierce competition to expand their presence abroad by diversifying their business portfolio to cover entertainment, web cartoons and content services.

Naver Webtoon, the webtoon service wing of South Korea's web service giant Naver, has seen on a roll by attracting some 180 million monthly active users worldwide in March 2022, up 291 percent from 46 million in May 2017. In January 2021, Naver took over Wattpad, a Canada-based web novel platform with more than 665 million story uploads.

Kakao's webtoon subsidiary, Piccoma, is a top webtoon service provider in Japan, ranking first in sales of non-game apps in Japan's two major app markets. However, Naver Webtoon emerged as a stronger challenger by setting up a joint venture with Japanese partners to recreate popular web cartoons into dramas, films, and other content. 


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