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SM Entertainment Revenue Falls Despite Album Sales Surge From NCT 127, aespa Releases

By Michael Feb 9, 2024

With a slate of new artists and a recently launched North American joint venture, SM Entertainment’s revenue reached 250 billion won ($189.5 million at the period’s average exchange rate) in the fourth quarter of 2023, down 3.4% year over year and 6.1% lower than the third quarter, the company announced Wednesday (Feb. 7). Operating profit dropped 51.7% to 10.9 billion won ($8.3 million) while the company posted a net loss of 19.7 billion won ($14.9 million) compared to a 1.9 billion won ($1.4 million) net profit in the prior-year period. 

The company attributed a decline in revenue from its concert-related subsidiaries to smaller-sized concerts and a decline in its content-related subsidiaries to “slow business conditions.”  SM Entertainment’s share price rose 0.2% to 73,000 won ($54.77) after the earnings release.

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SM Entertainment sold 5.6 million albums in the fourth quarter, up 40% from the prior-year quarter; NCT 127’s album Fact Check sold 1.86 million units and aespa’s Drama EP sold 1.26 million units. As for concerts, NCT Wish performed 24 shows in nine cities in Japan ahead of its debut album’s release later this quarter. SHINee performed for 80,000 fans at four concerts in Japan. NCT 127 had six concerts in Seoul, Korea with a total attendance of 60,000.

For the full year, SM Entertainment released 64 albums that sold a record 20.1 million units, and its artists performed at 340 concerts around the world. RIIZE, the first boy band launched under the company’s new multi-production system — an organizational structure introduced in 2023 to break from the previous system that relied solely on founder and ousted chief producer Lee Soo-man — sold more than 1 million units of its debut album, Get a Guitar, which was released in September.

“The multi-production system, which is the core part of our SM 3.0 strategy, has been operating successfully since its introduction last year, and active musical activities are underway under the guidance of each production SM director,” CEO Jang Cheol Hyuk said during Wednesday’s earnings call. The system is meant to speed the introduction of new artists and material by providing other leaders with decision-making powers. 

Looking ahead to 2024, SM Entertainment will launch four new artists: NCT Wish, virtual artist naevis, an unnamed girl group and a U.K.-based boy band. The company also plans to release global albums for major artists at least once a year and expand the scale of global concerts, Jang said. 

In the first quarter, SM has EPs from NCT Dream, TEN, Taeyong and Wendy, while NCT 127 is performing 13 dates in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Macau. The second quarter will see a new album from aespa and EPs from Red Velvet, RIIZE, SHINee, SUHO and WayV, as well as 15 concert dates for NCT Dream in Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. Other artists including MINHO, TVXQ!, Super Junior-L.S.S., SHINee, TAEmin and aespa each have a handful of shows in the first or second quarter.   

SM Entertainment also expects to see results from its North American partnership with Kakao Entertainment. The two companies are “working to establish and expand local partnerships for artists,” said Jang. He pointed to the joint venture’s strategic agreement with Moon & Back, a U.K.-based entertainment and TV production company, that will cast a five-member boy group in the United Kingdom and perform songs sourced from KMR, SM Entertainment’s new music publishing subsidiary. 

By Michael

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