'Baby Shark' driving you crazy? Its creator warns penguins are next

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SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - "Baby Shark (Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo)" is the YouTube sensation that's been viewed more than two billion times and made the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a second straight week.

The jingle has also become such an earworm that 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's Pinkfong is planning to release short videos via Netflix, 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's Alexa and Alphabet's Google Home voice assistants, he said.

The popularity of the sing-along builds on South Korea's emergence as an entertainment powerhouse.

Korean pop, or K-pop, has grown into a US$5 billion industry thanks to the success of the likes of boy band BTS, which has signed commercial deals with big companies from Hyundai Motor to Barbie-maker Mattel, and Psy, whose Gangnam Style is at more than three billion views and counting.

"We've added the 'K-pop factor' into our songs, such as very trendy beats and upbeat rhythms," said Seung-kyu 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 one and four 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'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 Baby Shark video went viral.

Revenue at closely held SmartStudy is expected to have increased to 37 billion won last year from 27.2 billion won and net income probably more than doubled to about five billion won, according to Lee.

Digital sales account for about 70 per cent of its total business, with the rest mainly coming from physical sales such as merchandising, he said.

Others are benefiting too. Samsung Publishing, which owns 25 per cent of SmartStudy, surged by the 30 per cent daily limit to a record high in Seoul on Wednesday (Jan 16). The stock has gained 83 per cent this year.

For its next act, Lee says the company will be developing content for older children - aged five to eight - 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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