The Webtoon industry that started off from the South Korean shores has now penetrated to a much bigger global audience. The demand for this long vertical scroll format digital comics is increasing because of its easy availability on devices like smartphones and tablets. There are numerous webtoon titles available for the comic aficionado, but only a few companies are producing the digital manhwa (Korean word for a comic).
Lezhin Entertainment, the startup that was founded in 2013, has been producing the most popular of webtoon titles in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English. Lezhin has more than 8,000 webtoon titles in its armory for avid fans and keeps launching over 250 new titles each week.
Revenue-sharing with creators; Variety of Content for fans
The startup was founded by Hee Sung Han and Chris Kwon, as a free-to-read service. It now also has a premium model where creators are offered options to monetize their work. Lezhin Entertainment started with Korean webtoons and introduced English and Japanese services in 2015. The platform allows comic creators to send their entries for publication and generate revenue for their creation on publication through a revenue-sharing model. The webtoon fans can download the comics using Lezhin’s app, which is compatible with Android and Apple users. The users can get ten free coins to start off reading episodes of the desired webtoons, but then have to buy the coins, which is the revenue shared with the creators. Lezhin offers a variety of mature content full of topics under romance, fantasy, drama, etc.
Lezhin’s comics have a much wider audience beyond Korea, in Europe and the US, making it one of the biggest webtoons exporting Korean company. The company’s content is actively consumed even in countries where there is no official service. Even in non-English speaking countries, webtoons and fandoms are formed through the Lezhin comics English platform. If one searches for ‘Lezhin’ on social media such as Instagram, one can find many cosplay or fanart works posted by fans from various countries.
Strategic Partnerships For Global Outreach
Lezhin’s comic app has over 1.6 million downloads per month. The startup has generated an average of $6 million in annual revenue. It surpassed 10 billion won (about US$8.7 million) in sales in the US market in 2018. The startup was funded initially 5 billion won by NCSOFT in 2014. To date, the company has raised a total of $52.8 million in three rounds with investors like NCSOFT, IMM Private Equity, and Bigbang Angels.
In 2019 Lezhin formed some strategic partnerships like with Samsung Galaxy Store and France-based Delitoon SAS. These steps have helped boost the startup’s growth and global outreach. Lezhin Entertainment has also explored into the field of transforming high-quality webtoon IPs and into films, dramas, video games, and other original content with its production company Lezhin Studio, launched in 2019. The startup already owns a stake in UL Entertainment, an entertainment management company.
While the Lezhin Entertainment earned some bad press in 2018 with some controversies with few creators regarding payments, the company is way ahead of its global competitors like Webtoon, Borderline Press and Tapastic. The startup aims to retain its leading position in the worldwide market in 2020 as well.