Joan MacDonaldContributorHollywood & EntertainmentI’m a journalist fascinated by Korean drama and film.
With much of the world engaged in social distancing, TV viewership numbers are up and k-drama streaming platforms are no exception. The streaming platform Kocowa, a joint venture between three major Korean broadcast networks, KBS, MBC and SBS, has seen a 27% increase in web views, a 20% increase in mobile viewing for its direct-to-consumer site, and 16.5% increase in paid subscriptions, on the site and through business partnerships, from February 2020.
Kocowa may not be a familiar name in some U.S. k-drama-viewing households, but the joint venture directly and indirectly supplies much of the content offered by Korea’s terrestrial TV channels, distributing at least 750 programs every year.
Founded as a way to bring the networks’ entertainment content to the international market, the collaboration pursued this goal through its own streaming platform as well as in partnerships with U.S.-based k-content platforms such as Rakuten Viki, OnDemandKorea, and the now defunct DramaFever. Joining forces with Rakuten Viki provided access to an existing international audience of more than 35 million monthly active users. Rakuten Viki airs new programs from Korea, China and Japan, as well as a few original productions, but even more content is available through the partnership with Kocowa, if viewers have a subscription. Today In: Hollywood & Entertainment
In 2019, a collaboration between the networks and SK Telecom launched the streaming platform Wavve. The collaboration merged the popular Pooq and Oksusu streaming platforms, which together had 14 million subscribers. Wavve is now a popular OTT streaming option for American television consumption in South Korea. In April 2020 Waave agreed to provide Korean content to NBCUniversal’s new streaming site Peacock.
“Pooq and Oksusu have been licensing content for Korean audiences from NBCUniversal for several years,” said Justine McKay, product marketing manager for Korea Content Platform (KCP). KCP is the official name of the collaboration that launched Kocowa, which stands for Korean Content Wave.
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“So when they merged, they continued those deals for the launch of Wavve,” added McKay. “Koreans love to watch American television. It was a natural part of their mutually beneficial partnership for them to also extend the deal the other way around—providing k-content to NBC Universal for their distribution.”
NBCUniversal will be able to license a select offering of new Korean titles from Wavve annually and KCP will offer the same content across the Kocowa direct-to-consumer streaming platform.
Offering the same titles via various outlets might seem counterintuitive from a business perspective, but it makes sense, said McKay, when providing consumer choice is your priority. Having a streaming platform allows the networks to host their own content, but it’s also important to make the content available through other streaming platforms, much the way Starz, HBO, Showtime and others can be accessed through Amazon Video, Hulu, and YouTube TV.
“They have their own direct-to-consumer platforms, but they can also be accessed through other providers,” said McKay. “The Wavve and NBCUniversal Peacock should be seen as just another content partnership, just with a select offering. In addition, there is synergy already happening between KCP and Wavve, and all the Wavve content will be secured for Kocowa and its content partners.”
Wavve will make original productions, as Rakuten Viki has done, and plans to spend $50 million (KRW60 billion) on original content production in 2020 alone.
The Kocowa program line-up already includes Korean dramas such as Nobody Knows, documentaries such as Inside the Films of Bong Joon-ho, variety shows, and k-pop programs such as Inkigayo and Music Bank World Tour. Programs are available up to six hours after being broadcast in Korea.
Although programming for May is not finalized, new offerings will include Good Casting, starring Choi Kang-hee and Lee Sang-yeob in a Charlie’s Angel-style drama about spies, as well as Old School Intern, starring Park Hae-jin, Han Ji-eun and Kim Eung-soo about an office team leader who must work with his former “old school” boss, now an intern.
All new programs, including the Wavve original productions, will be delivered to all of the venture’s business partners.