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(News Focus) Broadcasters, IT firms scramble for supremacy in online content market

Art/Culture 16:38 September 30, 2019

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- As South Korean broadcasters and IT firms scurry to reorganize and launch new over-the-top (OTT) services, the question of how to create bankable content is determining survival in the Netflix-led market.

The country's three terrestrial broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and SBS -- opened a new over-the-top (OTT) platform service, named Wavve, on Sept. 18. It offers some 1,000 titles, including movies and drama series, from both home and abroad, to paid subscribers.

On the same day, two large subscription broadcasting services, CJ ENM and JTBC, joined hands to set up a joint venture providing the streaming media service next year, based on the former's subscription-based video-on-demand service, named tving.

Well-received TV dramas and entertainment shows made by CJ ENM, which runs cable channels, including tvN and OCN, and JTBC, will help the new OTT service platform attract subscribers from the get-go.

The moves came as global media and entertainment giants, such as Netflix and Walt Disney, have been expanding their business horizons at home and abroad.

Netflix has led the South Korean online streaming industry for years, using its Korean-language original series, like "Kingdom" and "Love Alarm," to cement its foothold. Renowned film director Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" was produced and exclusively serviced by Netflix.

This image, provided by Netflix, shows a poster for its original series "Kingdom." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Disney's new video on-demand streaming subscription service, Disney+, will likely pose a threat to the local OTT market thanks to the company's popular content and loyal fans.

Experts said that the conventional media companies are challenged by the emergence of the OTT platform, which has completely changed the distribution network of media content.

"So far, TV broadcasters have aired dramas and shows and viewers have watched them on TV, and the broadcasters have resold them through a video-on-demand service one by one," culture critic Kim Seong-soo said. "Now, smartphones have emerged as the most influential, frequently-used device, and OTT platforms, like Netflix, offer a new mobile-based channel of online content."

Mobile media service providers go out hunting for quality dramas, shows, movies and documentaries and allow subscribers watch all of them at about US$8 per month. At the same time, they spend a lot of money to create original series, or content that is distributed exclusively on their services.

But the culture critic said the key point for the new home-grown OTT service providers to survive the Netflix-led OTT market is the quantity and quality of content.

"OTT service companies need to secure surefire series that can attract clients who pay monthly fee," he said. "This is why Netflix is pouring a lot of money to rake up up-and-coming drama series and create their original content."

In line with the trend, South Korean IT firms who operate top online portals have been turning their eyes to content creation, ranging from webtoons and web-based short-form dramas to films.

Kakao Corp., the operator of the country's top mobile messenger, KakaoTalk, has been moving swiftly to expand its business portfolio by acquiring number of star-studded agencies earlier this year.

Recently, it took over two local movie studios -- Moonlight Film and Sanai Pictures -- to make inroads into the filmmaking industry.

Adding to its presence in the K-pop scene with its online music streaming service provider Melon, Kakao has been also making inroads into the small screen scene through its drama studios and management agencies.

Its rival, Naver Corp., the operator of the country's No. 1 online portal, has been cementing its foothold in the drama production industry by dramatizing its popular online comics.

Studio N, Naver's drama production unit, presented a number of webtoon-based TV series including OCN's "Strangers from Hell" and tvN's "Pegasus Market."

This combined image, provided by OCN, shows scenes from the thriller "Strangers from Hell." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Thanks to the intensifying competition in the content market, the value of best-selling directors and screenwriters is going up," Kim, the culture critic, said. "Latecomers should discover creative startups and diamonds in the rough in a way to make their presence felt in the Netflix-occupied market."


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