The amount of Korean entertainment available to international viewers has expanded dramatically in the last few years. NetflixNFLX +3.1% began offering Korean content in 2016, then Disney+ and AppleAAPL -0.9% TV followed. Now Amazon will provide k-dramas on Prime Video in collaboration with wA, a joint venture between Korea’s three terrestrial broadcasters—KBS, MBC, SBS, plus SK Telecom—and Kocowa, the venture’s subscription video streaming platform.
Kocowa launched in 2017 and since then has established a reputation as a prime source for Korean content. According to wA CEO KunHee Park, Amazon noted how successful k-content has been for their competitors and decided to work with Kocowa because of its brand reputation and ability to supply exclusive content.
They spent a lot of time determining the market situation,” said Park. “They saw some benefit in working with Kocowa. They wanted the content on the condition of exclusivity. They wanted to introduce exclusive titles under the Kocowa brand name and wanted to see how they performed.”
The number of US viewers watching Korean dramas jumped over 200% between 2019 and 2021.
“From our company perspective we saw a 40% growth annually,” said Park. “It’s not a small number. I’m not sure about the growth at other companies, but it has grown. That’s why Netflix or other companies such as Apple, Disney +, etc., have made major investments in studios, as one of the ways to acquire Korean content. I believe that there must be some ROI or better ROI than in other international content or even domestic content. That’s why they put their money there.”
K-content has a long history of success in Asia.
“Korean content was introduced to the Asian market more than 20 years ago, so Korean content has been top during those years,” said Park. “In Japan it’s number one. In China, even though China did not always open its doors to Korean content, it has occasionally been top. So from a content strategy point of view maybe Korean content is very good material to open the door to Asia. Also, there is a growing market in European countries. As far as I know the viewership in Europe has gone up in the last couple of years. France, Spain and Germany, those European countries enjoy k-content more.”
The partnership launches with the Korean drama Tracer, which aired on MBC from January 7 to March 25, 2022. The series, starring Im Si-wan, Go Ah-sung, Son Hyun-joo and Park Yong-woo, follows National Tax Service agents as they investigate money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes among Korea’s rich and powerful. The drama premiered at the top of its time slot and scored an average nationwide rating of 9.0 percent for its finale. Im was nominated for a Best Actor Television Award at the Baeksang Arts Awards.
Tracer will be available exclusively on Amazon Prime from June 17 to July 1. After July 1 Tracer will be available on Kocowa.
Kocowa will also roll out a slate of exclusives, including fan favorites such as It’s Beautiful Now, Bravo, My Life, The Secret House, Gold Mask and Midnight Horror Story. Most content airs the same day as it airs in Korea.
“Korean content has become so much more mainstream recently and we are excited to offer Korea’s fresh storytelling with our diverse programming package on such an influential, global streaming service like Prime Video through Prime Video Channels,” said Park. “As a niche streaming service with broad reach, Kocowa is well-positioned to be competitive in the battle among streaming services by super-serving fans of Korean-produced content. It will now be even easier for viewers to watch new shows coming out of Korea at home, fully subtitled in English.”
Through the partnership Kocowa will provide dramas as a paid subscription channel under Prime Video, in much the same kind of profit partnership Prime Video has with streamers such as MLB.TV, Starz, and Paramount+. Kocowa is also accessible through their app, in the Apple and Play app stores.