Forbes India|August 14, 2020
This year was meant to be stellar for Seoul-based Big Hit Entertainment. Last year was its best ever, with record sales and profits and an IPO in the works. Then came Covid-19, and with it, the biggest challenge yet to face the company’s founder Bang Si-hyuk.
Big Hit’s rise is almost entirely due to the mega-success of its K-pop group BTS. In 2019, the seven-member act scored three No. 1 albums on the US Billboard 200—the first band to achieve that feat in a quarter of a century. Last July, BTS became Asia’s highest earning band before taxes on the Forbes Celebrity 100 (and the third-highest worldwide). The band’s eight-month Love Yourself World Tour, which ended in October, reportedly pulled in over $196 million.
But now the future of live events—a major revenue driver—is in limbo. As Forbes Asia went to print, all Big Hit concerts were being rescheduled, according to a company spokesperson, and the firm had also stopped selling tickets on its site. Those tickets already sold for Big Hit’s April concerts in South Korea have been refunded; the spokesperson says Big Hit is looking to secure new dates and venues.
“Big Hit’s business will see a huge impact due to the virus,” says analyst Yoo Sung-man of Hyundai Motor Securities. Last year, Big Hit earned $63 million on a record $507 million in revenue, up more than 160 percent since 2018. But Yoo has slashed his earlier forecast of $616 million revenue this year to a mere $277 million. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Yoo’s downgrade.
The lack of live events now makes the firm’s digital strategy especially critical. But here is where Big Hit excels—its social media strategy changed the way all K-pop bands, commonly known as idol groups, are marketed, and what arguably turned BTS into a global phenomenon. Much of the credit goes to Big Hit’s 42-year-old co-CEO Yoon Sukjun, known as Lenzo, who gave a rare interview to Forbes Asia in Seoul prior to the pandemic (Bang and the BTS members declined to be interviewed for this story).
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August 14, 2020