June 27, 2022

In late November, Netflix recorded another most- watched series by public, called “Hellbound” from South Korea. The series has been gaining much deserved recognition on TV, although it first appeared on much smaller screens as an online comic, or “webtoon”, optimised for smartphones.

The movie industry around the globe has been catching up on the webtoon format, of content creation which began in Korea two decades ago.

According to reports, with a growing number of adaptations on streaming services such as Netflix, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus and relatively few overhead costs, webtoons have become a rage for several visual stories.

Choi Gyu-seok, the artist and co-creator of the “Hellbound” webtoon mentioned that if a drama or movie fails, a bunch of people are in the red, hence they can’t experiment in various ways. However, in creating a webtoon, when an individual fails, we fail alone. Hence, they can experiment however they want.

According to data provided by Webtoon Analysis Service, there are more than 14,000 webtoons by 9,900 creators in South Korea alone. And top tech companies of the country Naver and Kakao through their webtoon units are facilitating adaptations and targeting global expansion.

Lee Hee-youn, head of IP Business at Naver Webtoon commented that their strength is that they have a lot of ongoing works. It has several amount of works that are currently live now, with each series usually having weekly updates, increasing the amount of material to draw from.

According to data from the Korea Creative Content Agency, for the creators, the payoff for getting a webtoon adapted can be huge as they on average make 48.4 million won ($41,000) a year. While only about 8% of creators mentioned their income has been substantially improved by adaptation rights.

Analysts have also mentioned that for an adaptation the ownership of the intellectual property rights usually depends on the contract between the creator, platforms like Kakao and Naver, and any agencies in the middle. While payouts can usually be a single-digit percentage of revenue, a minimum guarantee or a mix of the two.