20 OCT 2023

Webtoon adaptations fall dramatically as South Korea looks outwards

Webtoons, a popular source material for TV adaptation in South Korea, have seen commissions fall significantly over the past 12 months, as South Korea’s TV industry shifts towards a more internationally-friendly outlook, according to Ampere Analysis.

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"All Of Us Are Dead" (Netflix)

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Webtoons, a popular source material for TV adaptation in South Korea, have seen commissions fall significantly over the past 12 months, as South Korea’s TV industry shifts towards a more internationally-friendly outlook, Ampere Analysis noted in its latest report.

Webtoons mostly share the same format: online comics aimed at mobile phone users, utilizing continuous scrolling instead of traditional pages. The largest Webtoon platform is owned by Naver Corporation, a South Korean conglomerate, which is also the largest producer of Webtoon adaptations through its dedicated production company, Studio N.

The popularity of Webtoons in South Korea can be likened to the popularity of Manga in Japan, both as an art form and as a source for TV projects. In Japan, from January 2021 to August 2023, 61% of scripted adaptions were based on Manga. In the same timeframe, in South Korea, 99 comic adaptations were commissioned, 94 of which were Webtoon adaptations. This accounts for 63% of all scripted adaptations and 19% of all scripted commissions.

South Korean Scripted commissions have been in significant decline over the past 12 months, mirroring global trends due to a range of economic factors. However, Webtoon adaptations have been falling at a faster rate. Like Manga and Anime, Webtoons remain a niche market outside of their home territory. During August 2023, according to Ampere Popularity data, only 10 of the global top 100 South Korean scripted titles were Webtoon adaptations. As South Korean commissions aim for global audiences, both via direct global streamer commissions, and domestic broadcasters looking to distribute to global streamers in the future, adaptations from mostly unknown IP are a significant risk, Ampere Analysis noted.

“However, as financial circumstances improve, Webtoon adaptations can provide quality source material both at home and abroad. Prominent tentpole South Korean titles like ‘Sweet Home’ and ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ at Netflix, as well as ‘Moving’ by Disney+, reportedly the most expensive South Korean scripted TV commission ever, show that Webtoon stories can perform globally, and could see a resurgence in the hands of major streaming players,”  said Reade Layton, Senior Researcher at Ampere Analysis and the author of the report.

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