K-pop is still bigger than ever. It is growing every day not just in Asia but all around the world. Furthermore, K-pop Entertainment companies are reporting all-time high profits and pop groups are getting global exposure. Recently BTS performed on SNL which made them the first Korean musical performer on the show. Therefore, Korea’s main asset still continues to be K-Pop as K-Pop entertainment companies continue to find new talent. Most of these K-Pop companies/agencies are looking to expand outside of Korea and into other Asian markets as well as the United States. People all over the world want K-Pop more than ever.
The Battle for the Top Spot
Most of the Korean Entertainment companies are listed on KOSDAQ (SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, FNC Entertainment, and CUBE Entertainment). Both SM and YG Entertainment have been the two most dominant over the last decade. However, with all the K-pop scandals that YG faced in 2018, JYP and SM are now battling it out for the top spot. For this ranking we at Seoulz took into account three factors:
This is our comprehensive list of the Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies in 2019.
The success of Big Hit Entertainment is because of ONE group and one group only…BTS (Bangtan Boys). In addition, BTS has been having one of the most successful runs of all time. Big Hit was just a small company but with BTS they were able to create one of the biggest boy groups of all time. Furthermore, BTS alone is said to have a Net worth of over $60 million. Therefore, Big Hit is different from the other “BIG 3” because they work with a few bands and put all their attention on them.
Big Hit Entertainment is also planning to file for an IPO sometime in 2019. They have already gotten over $170 million from Netmarble and over $90 million from STIC Investment last year. Furthermore, their revenue last year was $190 million with net profits of around $44 million. This is largely due to BTS.
However, the company relies heavily on BTS and BTS alone. They were the first Korean music group to perform on SNL and 2019 looks to be a huge year for BTS in the United States. Bit Hit, however, is looking to have a backup plan after BTS. They’ve formed a joint venture company with CJENM called Belift Lab to find global artists. Their newest group TXT hopes to find just HALF the success of BTS. The company recently launched a new boy band TOMORROW as well.
Top Social Media K-Pop Group
Bit Hit Entertainment has over 25 million subscribers on YouTube which goes to show their potential market cap once they have their IPO. Therefore, once they do they will crush all competition. This is why Bit Hit Entertainment is #1 in our rankings.
Artists: BTS, TXT, TOMORROW
Estimated Market Cap: $1.5 Billion
They are now battling JYP for the 2nd spot. The company has focused a lot on the Chinese market in 2018. They will look to continue that in 2019. After getting investments from Alibaba and now Tencent, their popularity grew even more in China. If you check out their youtube channel they have over 18 million subscribers. Data shows that over 90% of the subscribers are not Korea. In addition, a vast majority are from China. Their strategic partnership with Tencent Music Entertainment will help SM Entertainment’s distribution and marketing in the Chinese music market. SM even has a Chinese boy band called WayV.
Breaking into the Chinese Market
China is one of the leaders in the music streaming space. Tencent Music Entertainment has close to 900 million monthly users across four of the top music service platforms in China. To put that into context, Spotify has just under 200 million monthly active users. Through the partnership, Tencent Music Entertainment will have access to SM’s entire music catalog.
SM’s music and video platform sales have grown close to 50% from last year. SM’s yearly YouTube views have reached just under 8 billion by the end of 2018. Their top female K-pop group at the moment is Red Velvet which is doing their first solo tour in the United States. Their top male K-pop group Super Junior is doing a tour around South America.
SM is planning to create an American version of Girl’s Generation as well as a European version of NCT.
Artists: S.E.S., Kangta, BoA, TVXQ!, CSJH, Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, J-Min, EXO, Shinee, f(x), Zhou Mi, NCT, and Red Velvet.
Estimated Market Cap: $970 Million
JYP was founded in 1997 by J.Y. Park. The company has been known for making the careers of K-pop legends such as Wonder Girls, Rain, and Miss A just to name a few. Their YouTube channel has over 12 million subscribers. Their current hottest group TWICE has over 3.5 million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined. While the company has focused a lot on China, JYP focused a lot on Japan. TWICE broke all the records for K-pop girl groups in Japan. The loss of Suzy will hurt JYP, but what JYP does best to find talent from all around the world. They hold auditions all across Asia.
Entering the Japanese Market
TWICE and GOT7 will continue to focus on Japan as both are gaining a lot of popularity there. But the company will look to support their 2019 projects Mix Nine and Stray Kids. They recently formed a partnership with The Orchard in hopes of expanding their reach outside of Korea. The Orchard is a part of Sony Music Entertainment. They are in charge of global digital and physical distribution. This will help JYP enter the U.S. and European markets in 2019.
Artists: 2PM, TWICE, GOT7, DAY6, 15&, Stray Kids and ITZY
Estimated Market Cap: 980 Million
What a terrible year for YG Entertainment. Their biggest female K-pop star CL wants out of her contract. Then they are hit with the biggest sex scandal to ever hit Korea. We will get to that a little later. The K-pop entertainment companies have all suffered due to the scandal of Seungri.
LVMH invested $80 into YG Entertainment and China’s social media giant Tencent and its related online ticketing company Weiying Technology agreed to invest $85 million into YG Entertainment in 2016. Weiying owns 8.2% of YG and Tencent owns 4.5%. They also got a huge partnership/investment from Naver, South Korea’s largest internet portal for around $90 million (9% equity stake).
Their current top group is Black Pink who are traveling across Asia in early 2019. They have also partnered with Universal Music Group’s representative label, Interscope. Winner will also look to start their U.S. tour in 2019.
The Seungri Scandal
However, the key to YG will be the comeback of Big Bang after most have now finished their military service. But is that possible with the Seungri scandal? Investors have already started to sell their shares of YG Entertainment and by the end of 2019, it is possible that Big Hit Entertainment will surpass them. Seungri is facing jail time after allegations of drug use and sexual assaults at his nightclub Burning Sun. He has already posted on Instagram that he is quitting show business.
YG Entertainment has a major PR problem they need to deal with. Big Bang is a major part of YG’s success. If they fail so will the company. They alone account for 40% of the companies total sales.
Their strategy for 2019 will probably be to focus on Blackpink’s comeback. However, Blackpink cannot replace Big Bang. This should be an interesting year.
Artists: 2NE1, BIG BANG, WINNER, 1TYM, DJ Tukutz, G-Dragon, Daesung, T.O.P., Taeyang, Kang Seung-Yoon, Minzy, Dara, Psy, Sandara Park, iKon, Seungri, Sechskies, Yang Hyun-Suk, Stony Skunk, Akdong Musician, Katie Kim, Lee Hi, Epik High, Tablo, Taebin, Teddy Park, iKONG, and MOBB, and Black Pink.
Estimated Market Cap: $740 Million
For FNC Entertainment 2018 was terrible. 2017 was better. 2018 brought a lot of scandals with F.T. Island and AOA. The company itself seems to lack leadership and it seems to have a lot of corruption and is one of the low trending K-pop entertainment companies.
In 2017 things ran much smoother. FNC started to focus more on dance. FNC has been known for cool/hipe bands like CNBLUE, SF9, and AOA who have all transitioned into more of a dance group.
TV vs Music
However, the biggest star for FNC Entertainment is not even a K-Pop star but the famous Yoo Jae Suk who they signed in 2017. That signing alone rose FNC’s stock prices by 30% raising the company’s value to close to $300 million. Therefore FNC relies more on their T.V. talent than singers. This might be a good strategy moving forward as they will not be able to compete with the Big 3 and for sure not Big Hit.
Veteran actors Lee Dong Gun will continue to help FNC as they look to split their talent base down the middle. SF9 is who FNC will focus the most on in 2019. They are looking to push them in Japan as well as Latin America. Their new female group Cherry Bullet will also debut in 2019. CNBLUE’s Jung Yong-hwa will leave the military in November of 2019 so a late CNBLUE comeback could be in the works.
Artists: CNBLUE, FT Island, N. Flying, AOA, AOA Cream, Hong-gi, Yonghwa, Jimin, Choa, Jong-hyun, InnoVator, SF9, and Juniel.
Estimated Market Cap: $120 million
Cube Entertainment has found great success with their new group PENTAGON. PENTAGON looked to take the place of B2ST who left Cube Entertainment. This was an attempt to revive Cube Entertainment who has not had a great 2016 and has seen their stocks suffer continual losses even into 2017-2018. Cube’s success depended on PENTAGON‘s and CLC‘s debut and HyunA‘s comeback.
With the loss of 4 minute and B2ST, it was crucial for PENTAGON and CLC to pick up the slack which they were unable to do. Losing BEAST was a crushing blow to Cube Entertainment. Add that to their failure to sign SISTAR and resign 4 Minute and many are wondering if Cube Entertainment can ever recover.
Many questioned whether Cube Entertainment can take girl groups to the next level. It was not wise to launch HyunA‘s solo career so closely with 4 Minutes debut. As all the attention went to HyunA, 4 Minute just got left behind. In fact, looking back on Cube Entertainment’s history you can say their only A list hit was BEAST. Maybe they should think about restructuring their business model in regards to managing their artists.
Artists: PENTAGON, BTOB, CLC, Yook Sungjae, Yoon Doojoon, HyunA, Ga Yoon, G. NA, Jang Hyun Seung, Lai Guanlin, and Lee Gikwang.
Estimated Market Cap: $140 Million
Woollim Entertainment merged with SM Entertainment through SM C&C in 2013. However, three years later the two companies officially separated. Woollim Entertainment now is an independent company. Their main artists include INFINITE and Lovelyz. 2016 was all about the comeback of INFINITE and has been a success up to this point. 2017-2018 was all about INFINITE. The main topic was whether they would resign with Woollim Entertainment. The good news for Woollim was that they were able to sign INFINITE in 2018. Now they can focus on having an amazing 2019 as they make their first comeback.
What can you expect in 2019? More of Golden Child? The main singer Choi Sung Yoon could be the next big K-Pop star in 2019. When they debut in August of 2017 with “DamDadi” there was a lot of buzz about them because of their youthfulness and high energy.
The big acquisition of Woollim was Takahashi Juri of Japanese idol group AKB48. She will debut in a new girl group under Woollim Entertainment in 2019. This could be their long term plan to break into the Japanese market. They are one of the major K-pop entertainment companies that are aggressively looking to enter Japan.
Artists: INFINITE, Lovelyz, JOO, Golden Child, and Nell
Estimated Market Cap: $65 Million
Pledis Entertainment has had great success with their girl group After School over the past few years. However, many fans see After School as a one-hit wonder because they have not made a lot of noise ever since “Because of You”. However, still to this day After School has a strong following in China and Japan and still ranks in the mid of Korean song charts.
Orange Caramel and UEE were a success in 2017 but have fizzled out. Their main group is SEVENTEEN followed by PRISTIN and NU’EST. Those three groups will be pushed hard in 2019. Out of the three, only two have the potential to have a big global impact, SEVENTEEN, and NU’EST. Raina will be focusing a lot on YouTube.
The Pledis YouTube channel has 825,000 subscribers. They have started to upload SEVENTEEN content on the Pledis channel in hopes of raising their subscriber numbers.
Artists: NU’EST, SEVENTEEN, Orange Caramel, UEE, Han Don Geun, Pristin, and After School.
Estimated Market Cap: $45 million
FAVE Entertainment was formerly known as LOEN Entertainment and their subsidiary Starship Entertainment has had much success with their 12-member girl group Cosmic Girls and of course IU who is one of the biggest stars in Korea at the moment.
IU is not only a musician but also a very successful actress. She is the driving force behind FAVE entertainment. Starship’s focus for 2019 will be to continue to look into the Chinese market and Cosmic Girls which consists of both Koreans and Chinese members is their best chance for it. With SISTAR resigned and on board, Starship will look to nurture their individual abilities for potential solo careers.
Male group MONSTA X partnered with Cosmic Girls to form a new unit called Y TEEN. Y TEEN consists of 7 MONSTA X members and 7 Cosmic Girls members for a total of 14 members. This is Starships plan to appeal more to young girls. MONSTA X was Starships top group in 2018. Comeback group WJSN will continue to push their comeback album as well as continue acting. Boyfriend, solo artists K.Will, Soyou, and Jung Se-woon will perform in various ways such as broadcasting. They come in at 9 on our list of the top K-pop entertainment companies.
Artists: Cosmic Girls, Monsta X, Yoo Seung Woo, Hyorin, Soyou, K. Will, Mad Clown, Brother Su, Boyfriend, WJSN, JungGiGo, Lee Kwang Soo, Lee Dong Wook, Kim Bum, Kim Ji Won, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jo Yoon Hee, and SISTAR
Estimated Market Cap: $10 million
TOP Media is a South Korean company. They were founded by Shinhwa member Andy. He was in charge of handling the management of several artists. They usually work with LOEN Entertainment as the distributor of musical releases. They are considered one of the top up-and-coming K-pop Entertainment companies in Korea at the moment.
TOP Media’s biggest success of 2018 was TEEN TOP. The group has five members: C.A.P, Chunji, Niel, Ricky, and Changjo. Originally they were a six-member group (with L.Joe, filing for contract termination in February 2017), Teen Top debuted with their first single album “Come into the World” way back in 2010. They are still going strong and look to take that momentum into 2019.
Artists: TEEN TOP, 100%, UP10TION, Andy, Niel
Estimated Market Cap: $10 million