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Ko - production in Busan
  • The Ecosystem of Korean Streaming Platforms
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Sep 27, 2018
  • The Journey Continues: Testing the New Korean Streaming Platforms



    The impact of huge global VOD streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon continues to be felt in the worldwide media industry as new European and Asian companies are rushing to launch new platforms, whether it is because they see them as role models or rivals. This trend can be clearly observed in Korea as well. This is because telecommunication companies, film finance and distribution companies, media corporations as well as startup companies are trying to jump onto the bandwagon, armed with ideas and new technologies.

    Developing New Products Mixing Film Screenings and VOD Rentals, SEECHU 



    Among the many attempts to introduce new VOD platforms, the service that is attracting the most interest from the Korean film industry is SEECHU, operated by Lotte Cultureworks, which owns its film finance and distribution company and runs the multiplex chain ‘Lotte Cinema’. Launched this July, the service drew attention for its streaming service as it also offers vouchers for theatrical screenings. Indeed, SEECHU provides packages that, for instance, include film tickets for a newly released film of a franchise like Incredibles 2 or Mission: Impossible - Fallout, along with the VOD rental of the previous installments in the series. KANG Dong-yeong, Senior Manager of the Communication Team, explains the reason why they launched SEECHU: “The importance of streaming platforms is on the rise and it’s hard to predict how things would pan out if we were to stick with theatrical distribution only. So, we have determined it was necessary for us to set up a VOD platform like SEECHU before we lose the initiative in the industry”. He also added, “For now, we are going to focus on reinforcing the presence of our content in the ancillary market (Naver VOD and IPTV) to make it more accessible to the public by the end of this year, and we will subsequently develop more aggressively new events or products similar to our packages that would combine VOD rentals and theatrical screenings.”

    Aggressively Attracting Individual Media Creators, tving



    The CJ ENM-owned ‘tving’ (www.tving.com) has also joined in the VOD platform business by announcing its ‘tving 2.0 scale-up’ strategy this February. tving originally served as a platform for live streaming and catch-up TV for CJ ENM-owned cable channels such as tvN, Mnet and Tooniverse. However, through its ‘tving 2.0 scale-up’ strategy, the company has expressed a strong will to improve the profit models of creators and producers by partnering not only with cable channels but also start-up content production companies and combine them with the media commerce industry. 

    Principally, tving has entered partnerships with the 4 generalist channels (like JTBC), the 12 cable companies (like The History Channel) and start-ups producing digital content, such as PLAYLIST, WHYNOT MEDIA, Video Village and MOMOCON. Furthermore, the company has introduced an unprecedented reorganization plan that opens opportunities for content companies to directly conduct advertising operations through tving’s infrastructure and receive up to 90% of the ad revenue from their content. It also provides advertising sales support for small businesses that couldn’t handle advertisement sales by themselves, and the number of technology and network cost support for content companies that do not have a live streaming channel. This strategy is expected to actively attract individual video content creators who have seen a sharp rise in viewership recently. 

    Another prominent aspect to note is the ‘Media Commerce’ business that interlocks tving with tving mall (mall.tving.com). For this operation, tving mall acts as a sales agency for PPL products appearing in digital content shared on tving, such as the items that appeared in current popular TV programs Produce 48 and Show Me the Money, as well as various merchandise products based on animation characters. CJ ENM emphasized the ‘business innovation’ and ‘social responsibility’ of media companies, and also expressed the company’s ambition to fully support ‘start-up content companies’ and create a VOD platform where content prevails, a VOD platform that offers attractive content to the users. 

    Simultaneously Developing Films Based on Webtoons and Web novels, Kakao Page



    Starting out as a messenger service, Kakao has grown to become a leading Korean IT company and is now expanding by offering film VOD service through its online content sharing platform Kakao Page. Kakao Page, which initially focused on webtoons and web novels, added film VOD to its services this January, and series and variety show VOD services this May. However, it is the original content business that the company is most invested in at the moment. A noted example would be filmmaker YANG Woo-suk’s Steel Rain (2017). Based on the webtoon series Steel Rain, which was published on web portal Daum Communications (Daum and Kakao merged in 2014), this film was co-developed between the filmmaker and Kakao Page to release the film version and the director’s version of the webtoon series at the same time. Other projects include the simultaneous development of the web novel, the webtoon and the series based on KIM Young-tak’s novel Gomtang (‘gomtang’ is a Korean beef stock soup), as well as the mobile film adaptation of in-house webtoon Dokgo Rewind which was made available on Kakao Page and SKT’s OTT service ‘Oksusu’. 

    Making the Most of AI Technology, BFLIX 



    Film streaming services using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has emerged as well. BFLIX (www.bflix.co.kr), a film streaming service launched by ZETTAMEDIA, uses AI’s facial recognition technology to recommend other film titles where cast members of a particular film appear. This technology was co-developed by ZETTAMEDIA and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute under the Copyright Technology Development Business program commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Copyright Commission. According to ZETTAMEDIA, BFLIX’s AI facial recognition has an accuracy of 98.68%, allowing users to enjoy a collection of clips showing the performances of a specific actor in different scenes or immediately find additional information about a cast member while watching a film. ZETTAMEDIA is planning to extend their services from star cast members to actors of supporting roles or unknown actors to create a database that includes a broader scope of AI facial recognition. 

    Striving to Be the Korean Netflix, WATCHA 



    Meanwhile, WATCHA (watcha.com) launched in 2011 with the goal of becoming the Netflix of Korea. While it is running a stable service domestically, it is carefully attempting to step into the global market. The company, which started out with the idea of recommending films according to the viewers’ tastes by using the public’s film ratings and reviews, launched its Japanese platform in 2014 and is now about to enter the English-speaking market by expanding its services to the U.S. and Canada this August. As of 2018, the company has collected more than 400 million reviews collected from 4 million users and launched its subscription VOD platform WATCHA PLAY based on WATCHA’s data in 2016. In addition, the development of blockchain-based content platform ‘content protocol’ is attracting attention. Contents protocol is a ‘premium content exchange protocol’ that is designed for content users and providers to transparently share data and for each party to receive the proper compensation when the content distribution is boosted through their collaboration. Although it’s still at the development stage, there seems to be much expectation whether such attempts from WATCHA will open new horizons for Korea’s platform ecosystem.
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