HYBE versus Kakao: What each takeover could mean for SM Entertainment
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Boy band BTS during The Fact Music Awards (TMA) in 2021 [TMA]

Will it be a collaboration between boy bands NCT and BTS? Or a webtoon series based on girl group aespa? Fans of SM Entertainment artists may have to brace themselves for a change regardless of which company wins the battle to take over one of Korea's largest K-pop agencies.

On the one corner is HYBE, the largest K-pop company in the world that is fast-devouring companies in and outside of the K-pop market. On the other is Kakao, a tech company that seeks to make its global mark with culture and content, especially K-pop.

After seeing exponential growth with BTS’s success on the Billboard chart in 2017, HYBE — then known as Big Hit Entertainment — has merged with some of the biggest names in the music industry in Korea and the United States.

The company bought Source Music, home to now-disbanded girl group GFriend and Le Sserafim, in 2019; Pledis Entertainment, home to boy bands Seventeen and NU’EST and girl group fromis_9, in 2020; Ithaca Holdings, the management company of pop singers Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, in 2021; and most recently, QC Media Holdings, an Atlanta-based hip-hop label and management agency to Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Migo and City Girls, earlier this month.

In addition to the agencies, HYBE also bought game developer Superb in 2019, Naver’s education subsidiary Cake in 2022, artificial intelligence audio tech start-up Supertone last month and many more.

An image of BTS members turned into 3-D characters for mobile game BTS Dream by Netmarble [NETMARBLE]

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