The third decade of the millennium looks very different to the Korean entertainment scene compared to a few years ago.
In March 2020, “Parasite” made history as a Korean film by winning three Oscars, including Best Picture. The following year, Korean veteran Youn Yuh-jung received an Oscar for best actress in “Sustainable Threats,” while in 2022, “Squid Game” leading man Lee Jung-Jae looks poised for Emmy accolades.
K-pop has exploded to become a phenomenon that fills the top of the charts, global stadiums and airwaves, and the social media group BTS, who call themselves “Army”, even had a small influence in the recent US presidential election. .
In TV and streaming, Disney and Apple are now major investors in Korean programming. They proudly boast that they are in a race to catch up with global, regional and even Chinese operators such as Netflix, Viu and Tencent WeTV, respectively, to control and leverage some of the world’s most exportable products. IP.
“Seeing this as new is to reveal your interest in the culture,” says Jeong Taesung, former CEO of Korean movie behemoth CJ Entertainment, and who now runs his own startup in Southeast Asia. “Korea has been making inventive, high-quality film and TV productions for more than 20 years, as everyone in Asia has known for years. K-pop idol groups were conceived more than two decades ago. And BTS has been around for the best part of a decade.
That’s a macro view that Asian film, TV and music audiences understand widely. In many East Asian countries, data shows that Korean content has consistently grown larger than English-language films and TV. A number of streamers who judged the situation to be trending and could not adapt in time went out of business even before the 2020 COVID outbreak.
Since then, beneath the surface, the age of the pandemic has forced further changes. These have made the Korean music and TV industries more sophisticated and digital and more and more suitable for their global role.
“Arguably, what the Korean industry has done differently is to use digital tools to expose its content more,” says Jeong.
For the music business, COVID has been a disaster, and it has been difficult to stop the business of concerts and the myriad of unheard of events that are typical of the current Korean music sector.
“This was a crisis for K-pop. But we were able to recover from it and turn it into an opportunity,” said Kim Hyun-soo, head of CJ ENM’s music operations.[in-person] concert Generation MZ [millennials and Gen Z] It is very used in the digital environment, so we called them in our digital world. From this experience, we were able to increase the fandom of K-pop culture, which in turn led to an increase in consumption.
Kim said the rapid wave to digital presentations has helped increase cross-border artist collaboration and the globalization of K-pop among consumers.
“KCON was previously only associated with US fans. But during the pandemic, we raised our fans and connections by publishing events and holding them online with different bands all over the world in one digital space.
“Similarly, we used our YouTube channel to announce that the event was going to be online. We could see fans all over the world react immediately. So it was somehow more effective and efficient because everything was done online.
Hybe Corp., the agency behind BTS, is the master of digital promotion. He built his own Weverse portal to support the band’s unusual fan efforts. The unit now promotes technology, commerce and music, and boldly describes itself as “the “No.1 global fandom platform.” But it is so successful that you would like to use rival organizations. And at the end of July, the solo organization of BTS member J-Hpes at Lollapalooza (another first) earned 14.9 million streaming views and around 180 million likes on Weverse.
As with music concerts, the impact of the pandemic has badly disrupted film and TV production in Korea. Although TV and music were ready to accommodate, but with theaters closed or restricted, local movies remained on hold until May, when major local titles returned to the release calendar. Korean movie theaters are currently operating at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
The beneficiaries of the two-year hiatus were Hollywood films, which returned Korean titles to theaters months ago, and streaming video.
In the TV sector, producers usually had to move to their homes to work on site. “We never stopped producing content, but we started shooting in studios. We found ways to leverage effects, and changed stories to avoid location shooting,” says Kim Yong Kyu, CEO of Studio Dragon, Korea’s largest TV producer. But Kim says the chaos in production they were forced to be nothing compared to the recognition of the lower things.
“There have been more changes in the last three years than in the 15 years that I have worked in this industry. The biggest change was division. It’s nice to describe it as revolutionary,” says Kim. “Before COVID, [TV] distribution divided into two parts, local and international. When we sold our content overseas, we just sat back and waited for the result. Now we see our content playing all over the world [and get to see how it is working].
Korean content has become a must-have for any platform with global ambitions or hopes of cross-border success in East Asia – including the Netflix group, Amazon, Apple, Disney, WBD, China’s WeTV and iQiyi, Pan-Asian pioneer Viu and Quisque’s own Tving and Waave.
The trend-setter was Netflix, which made the first strategic diversion from licensing and co-production into original production. The business, supported by the intention to spend an average of $ 500 million on K-content in 2021, quickly bore fruit according to its leadership market in rich Korea. It shows what kind of “Kingdom” subscriptions have flown in perspective rather than around Asia.
Korean also shows what Vivek Couto, managing partner of the strategy and research firm Central Asia Partners, calls “optimal travelability”. The company announced that last year in Southeast Asia, Korean drama shows accounted for 31% of audience time spent on premium services and 4% spent on Korean-titled shows, with 15% for TV, 7% for US movies and 12%. for Chinese drama.
The rampant success has not been lost on Korean producers, influential rivals Netflix and Korean lawyers (who want Netflix to pay more tax).
Apple felt the need for a Korean series – “Dr. Brain, “based on the Korean web and starring movie ace Kim Jee-woon – for its local launch as a streamer next year. Disney, which has never before been a film or TV producer in Korea, introduced Disney+ in the country in November, and is now carefully building a K-series panel, including “Grid,” “Link: Eat, Love, Kill; “Chorus #1,” “Rookie Cops” and “Snowdrop,” starring Blackpink member Jisoo. The table of contents from Hybe Corp. presenting, the Burbank studio also seems to have a junior role in the relationship with the master fandom.
Korean corporations have also stepped up and are operating at a scale to match the recent influx. Hybe conducted its IPO at the height of the pandemic in September 2020 and barely six months later paid $1 billion to acquire Ithaca’s Braun Scooter Holdings. In June, producer and distributor Showbox brought in $105 million from Silicon Valley investor Maum Capital to help it diversify from movies into series, games and the metaverse.
CJ ENM, the group behind “Snowpiercer,” “Parasite,” TV channels tvN and Mnet, and the powerhouse Studio Dragon, went last.
In addition to a string of new partnerships with key Asian players, CJ ENM bought control of its Content Writers TV business, massively boosting its English-language capabilities. Home streamer Tving has recaptured it with the help of Naver and JTBC, giving it the mission to become the first Korean video provider. Tving now incorporates Paramount+ in Korea and will be merged with the much smaller Seezn, which is supported by the Korea Telecom cellular operator.
If that hydra-like growth wasn’t enough, the group has also launched a third production pole, CJ ENM Studio, headed by JK Youn, one of the most iconic filmmakers of the movie (“Heaven,” “Ode to My Father”).
“Traditional theatrical release businesses have fallen to rock bottom under COVID while digital releases have grown exponentially. That has inspired people in the film industry, filmmakers and actors, to go beyond such activities,” Youn says. “Where Korea once had a clear division between film and TV, the two sides recently had a lot of exchange and learned a lot.”
Studio Dragon Kim says that gender lines and forms are now so blurred that there are “no trends” in TV and streaming, and “the only thing is fiction.”