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FTC gives go ahead for merger deal between V Live and Weverse

The move paves the way for a merger between two major K-pop platforms

V Live and Weverse's icons (Naver, HYBE)
V Live and Weverse's icons (Naver, HYBE)
The Korea Fair Trade Commission said on Thursday it has approved a merger deal between web portal giant Naver’s streaming platform V Live and Weverse, a fan community platform created by entertainment company HYBE.

The decision, which was made last week, comes after the FTC concluded the move is unlikely to reduce competition in the market following a review.

Following a greenlight from the regulators, the move will see Weverse Company, a subsidiary of HYBE, take over V Live and Naver will acquire a 49 percent share in the company in turn with plans to create a “whole new global fan community platform.”

Earlier this year, HYBE announced plans to work with Naver as it said the two firms will “maximize their synergy” by combining its “long-accumulated experience in the entertainment scene” and Naver’s focus on “technological strengths.”

Launched in 2015, V Live became a go-to streaming platform for young K-pop fans as the music took over the world. Idols can upload content such as vlogs and exclusive interviews, as well as livestream performances. As of December, the platform had racked up a total of 100 million downloads globally.

Years later, HYBE, then Big Hit, also launched Weverse. Positioned as an all-encompassing fandom platform where fans can purchase merchandise and book concert tickets, it began with in-house artists such as BTS and TXT before signing on artists from other labels including GFriend and Seventeen, as well as British pop trio New Hope Club.

Promotional images for Weverse and V Live (Naver, HYBE)
Promotional images for Weverse and V Live (Naver, HYBE)
The upcoming platform is poised to become the biggest online community in K-pop, boasting the likes of Blackpink, EXO and Twice – some of the biggest acts in the industry who are active on V Live.

“After reviewing the risk of reduced competition in the related market as a result of consolidation between the two companies’ online fan community platforms, we have concluded that a reduced competition risk is low,” the fair trade agency said.

The government organization also said “many other services, similar to both companies’ services, already exist and competition is tough,” citing Universe, another platform created by video game developer NCSoft, and SM Entertainment’s Lysn ad examples.

“Talent agencies tends to prefer multi-homing, using multiple platforms and it is easy to switch between them,” the KFTC noted.

The integration of the two platforms is the latest in a series of moves by HYBE to expand its presence in the global entertainment industry.

In April, HYBE acquired Ithaca Holdings, a music-management company previously owned by American music executive Scooter Braun, via its US-based subsidiary Big Hit America. The move saw some of the biggest pop acts including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande come under the same roof as South Korean pop group BTS.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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