BTS Steps Into ‘Toon World as HYBE, Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings Diversify Beyond Music Into Games, NFTs, More

Will K-pop sensation BTS put its name on an online comic series or cartoon? That’s in the cards as part of a new initiative announced Thursday (Nov. 4) by BTS-backer HYBE Corp. and Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings. The companies plan to expand beyond music and to diversify into games, comics and NFTs.

The strategic partnership between Korea’s HYBE and U.S.-based Ithaca demonstrated how national and cultural barriers are breaking down. Said Braun: “Music brings us together, that’s why this merger and partnership has and will be successful.”

Braun and HYBE founder Bang Si-Hyuk described “Original Stories” as a project to plan and develop new intellectual properties on both sides of the Pacific. HYBE artists will be involved in creating animated content that is not bound by specific genres and will be made available on Naver’s webtoon portal globally, launching in early 2022.

Most of the stories are expected to portray contemporary teenage romance, adventure, magic and fantasy elements. But BTS’ “7Fates: CHAKHO” is poised to explore Korean traditions and history through ‘Chakhogapsa’ tiger hunters of the Joseon dynasty era.

“‘7Fates: CHAKHO’ is an urban fantasy based on the Chakhogapsa, the army that used to catch tigers and bears of Korean tale,” said BTS member V.

Other webtoons on the company slate involve other HYBE boy bands: “The Star Seekers” sees collaboration with Tomorrow x Together (TXT) while “Dark Moon: The Blood Altar” involves Enhyphen. Another, “Crimson Heart,” is also expected to premiere in 2022 is a classic girls coming-of-age story.

BTS is also involved in a new game, expected to release in the first half of 2022. Said BTS rapper and producer Suga: “You’ll get to enjoy a game we’ve put effort in.”

Singer and dancer Jimin added: “I want people to relax by playing this game.”

Weverse, the HYBE-developed artist-to-fan communication platform will continue to evolve and in 2022 will be merged with V-Live, a live streaming app for artist videos developed by Korean tech giant Naver.

Notifications will assume a new meaning for fans as the platform deliver heart-fluttering live video notifications from their favorite artists. The signature V-Live Spot Live feature, Naver’s search and AI capabilities will also be integrated within Weverse.

HYBE’s commitment to expanding the music industry through new technologies was underlined as it embarks on a new joint venture with Dunamu, a fintech company behind the operations of Korean cryptocurrency exchange platform Upbit. This will take HYBE into the non-fungible token (NFT) business that has already taken the art world by storm.

It will issue limited-edition artist photo cards, while ensuring longevity of these creative assets by the NFTs’ digital watermarking and blockchain tracking attributes. The company expects to launch an exchange for fans to meet, exchange and trade NFTs.

The event was also used to unveil details of a new female pop group being launched jointly by HYBE and Universal Music Group, via its label imprint Geffen. Talent will be drawn from a global auditions process. UMG and HYBE have recently established a U.S.-Korea artist training system. This leans on best-in-class vocal trainers, production teams and mental health experts along with UMG’s expertise in global marketing and distribution.

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