‘Baby shark’ drive you nuts? Creator warns penguins are next

By Bloomberg News Time of article published Jan 23, 2019

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Baby Shark (Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo) is the YouTube sensation that’s been viewed more than 2billion times and made the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a second straight week.

The jingle has also become such an earworm that US late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel proposed throwing those responsible in jail for life.

Love or hate it, the South Korean company behind the one-and-a-half minute song about a family of sharks is now seeking to capitalise on the success by expanding its kid-oriented entertainment business.

Seoul-based SmartStudy Co.’s Pinkfong is planning to release short videos, a cartoon series and a musical in North America this year, one of the company’s founders said in an interview this week.

The start-up, which has recently signed various merchandising deals, may also develop games that work with Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home voice assistants, he said.

The popularity of the sing-along builds on Korea’s emergence as an entertainment powerhouse. Korean pop, or K-pop, has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry thanks to the success of the likes of boy-band BTS, which has signed commercial deals with big companies from Hyundai Motor Co. to Barbie-maker Mattel Inc., and Psy, whose Gangnam Style is at more than 3billion views and counting.

“We’ve added the ‘K-pop factor’ into our songs, such as very trendy beats and upbeat rhythms,” said Seungkyu Lee, who’s also chief financial officer at SmartStudy.

“If you’ve ever heard of Baby Shark, you might feel the importance of community. In a group, we should walk or swim together.”

Unlike BTS, SmartStudy has found its niche with kiddie pop, targeting children aged between 1 and 4 with addictive, dance-along videos. It was established in 2010 by three former online gaming employees.

Lee, 44, who formerly worked at game-maker Nexon Co.’s marketing department, said the trio wanted to pursue opportunities in the growing market for educational content in smartphones by using their expertise in attracting and keeping users to make money.

Lee said the Korean educational app-to-video maker’s early days were tough, but that its business grew fast after the video went viral.

Revenue at SmartStudy is expected to have increased to 37billion won ($33million) last year from 27.2bn won and net income probably more than doubled, according to Lee.

Digital sales account for about 70% of its total business, with the rest mainly coming from physical sales, he said.

Others are benefiting too. Samsung Publishing Co., which owns 25% of SmartStudy, surged by the 30% daily limit to a record high in Seoul on Wednesday. The stock has gained 83% this year.

For its next act, Lee says the company will be developing content for older children - aged 5 to 8 - and that he’s looking beyond sharks by closely examining penguins.

“I really liked Madagascar,” Lee said, in reference to the DreamWorks Animation films that featured some penguins. 

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