In the latest business deal to underscore the globalization of K-pop, MGM Worldwide Television Group is partnering with Korea’s SM Entertainment to develop a competition series to scout young American men to form a U.S.-based K-pop group.
To be more precise, the new boy group, NCT-Hollywood, will be the latest subunit of SM’s hit “concept” group NCT, a growing collective of members (currently numbering 23) who can be combined into various subunits: NCT 127 (Seoul-based), NCT Dream (originally a teen-only group) and WayV (China-based).
The talent search will be open to “America’s most talented emerging artists” who are males aged 13 to 25. Contestants will be flown to Seoul for K-pop bootcamp training at the SM campus, where in each episode, they will compete in dance, vocal and style tests and will be judged and mentored by SM founder Lee Soo-man as well as various current NCT members.
“I look forward to making an unconventional audition show that all music fans around the world can enjoy,” Lee said in a statement. “I hope the audience enjoys watching the journey of new stars being born in Hollywood, that will be promoted as NCT-Hollywood in the global market in the future.”
Plenty of K-pop artists have hailed from different nationalities and Asian ethnicities (NCT includes members who are Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean American and Korean Canadian), and competition shows to form new groups are a fixture of Korean television. However, a series produced in collaboration with an American company to form a U.S.-based K-pop group would be a first; in February, BTS’ company Big Hit Entertainment (now known as HYBE) announced a strategic partnership with Universal Music Group to do the same thing.
“This series is exactly the type of innovative programming that MGM is committed to creating on a global scale,” MGM Television chairman Mark Burnett said in a statement. “K-pop is more than a genre of music; it’s a cultural phenomenon and we’re so excited to partner with the incredible Lee Soo-man and the team at SM to bring K-pop to the U.S.!”
MGM’s current unscripted series include NBC’s The Voice, CBS’ Survivor, ABC’s Shark Tank and Fox’s Beat Shazam. Founded in 1995, SM Entertainment is one of K-pop’s traditional “Big 3” agencies/labels, birthing such major artists as Super Junior, Girls Generation, Shinee, Exo, Red Velvet and SuperM. Today, K-pop is a $5 billion global industry that generates more than 20 billion downloads and streams worldwide, with more than 62 million listeners tuning in to the genre every month on Spotify alone.