[FORUM]Future lies in digital contentSK Telecom is running a record company? No one could imagine the mobile communications service provider would have gotten involved in the entertainment industry a year or two ago. Recently, SK Telecom has acquired YBM Seoul Records, the largest music label in the country.
With the acquisition, SK Telecom hopes to secure digital music sources to be used on Melon, its music portal for wireless phones and a subsidiary providing wireless digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) services.
The deal is the result of a unique revolution in the music distribution industry in Korea, where digital music services have grown bigger than the conventional recording market. As more people listen to music on portable MP3 players, mobile telephones or online, wireless providers and music portal sites have emerged as new powers in the music industry.
The Internet and digital media are in the process of changing the geography of the global entertainment industry. The satellite broadcasting service for wireless phones, which started in early May, only accelerated the phenomenon. Today, you no longer have to go to a concert or stay in front of a television or stereo to enjoy entertainment. You can access music, broadcasting, movies, online games, sports, animation and more anytime, anywhere.
The age of ubiquitous entertainment, or “U-entertainment” for short, has begun. In the world of ubiquitous entertainment, you can use digital devices to log on to the network anytime, anywhere to obtain news or information, make purchases and enjoy games. And Korea is leading the very latest trend.
In Korea since last year, some singers introduced digital albums online before they released CDs. Popular idols such as Seven, Shinhwa and Wheesung have done it, and veteran singer Kim Gun-mo promoted his 10th record on the Internet on May 24 before the CD release. Seo Tae-ji has released his latest single, “Watch Out,” through KTF wireless phones.
Let’s re-examine the stunning evolution of SK Telecom. The company claims that it is no longer a mere wireless carrier. What the company aspires to become is a comprehensive global media group. As all kinds of information and entertainment are concentrated on mobile phones, SK Telecom hopes to become a media service provider that creates digital content to sell over its existing wireless network.
The company has become the second largest shareholder of IHQ, a film and television series producer, and TU Media, one of the leaders in the wireless DMB industry, is SK Telecom’s subsidiary. SK Communications, which operates the widely popular personal homepage service Cyworld, is also a subsidiary. It is reportedly seeking to advance to the animation and computer game industries as well. SK Telecom has geared up to jump into all aspects of the digital content business.
Watching a movie on the subway on a portable multimedia player and enjoying a sports program, a computer game or a comic book on a mobile phone has become an everyday affair. Radio music programs have begun to compete with DMB music programs.
Using the enthusiasm and emotion that Koreans are known for, it’s about time to concentrate the national strength on the digital entertainment industry. In the United States, the entertainment industry is the second largest national industry after munitions. Considering the power of hanryu, or the Korean Wave, in Asia, Koreans have the talent to become leaders.
According to President Suh Byoung-moon of the Korea Culture and Content Agency, cultural content has the potential to be the leading contributor to the Korean economy.
The global market is enormous. The online game industry is bigger than the mobile telephone industry, and the character merchandise market is bigger than the semiconductor market.
The entertainment industry is the fastest growing industrial sector in the world, with its size expected to grow to 1.5 trillion dollars by 2007.
Aspiring young Koreans should bet all on the entertainment industry. It will entertain people around the world, and money and fame will follow. Pop idol BoA and her producer Lee Su-man have set a precedent for success by expanding their stage to the world.
If kids are more gifted in music, arts and dance than English, mathematics and other school subjects, parents should consider liberating them from homework and help them develop and explore their talents.
* The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s deputy managing editor in charge of digital news.
by Kim Il