October 2020 www.mipcom.com
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mip com FOCUS ON
KOREA COUNTRY OF HONOUR 10
The drama continues Hallyu started in Asia. Now it’s global
Korea: a cultural superpower The power of the K-entertainment wave
KCC chairman Han Sang-hyuk on Korea as MIPCOM Country Of Honour 2020
Content goes global 14
An outbreak of creativity Production adapts to the pandemic
Korean Wave power The world has fallen under the spell of Korean content
Homemade in Korea Local streamers are challenging the giants
Doc and Animation 28 ‘Extraordinary perspectives and interpretations…’
PRODUCT NEWS Korean content for sale during MIPCOM Online+
Formats In tune with demand Korean formats are going global
Anytime, anywhere, any device Showing the world what 5G can do
MIPCOM Focus on Korea Country of Honour — October 2020 — Director of Publications Paul Zilk EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT Editor in Chief Julian Newby Deputy Editor Debbie Lincoln Sub Editor Jo Stephens Contributors Andy Fry, Juliana Koranteng Head Of Graphic Studio Herve Traisnel Graphic Studio Manager Frederic Beauseigneur Graphic Designer Carole Peres PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT Publishing Director Martin Screpel Publishing Manager Amrane Lamiri Publishing Co-ordinator Emilie Lambert Printer Riccobono Imprimeurs, Le Muy (France) Reed MIDEM, a joint stock company (SAS), with a capital of €310.000, 662 003 557 R.C.S. NANTERRE, having offices located at 27-33 Quai Alphonse Le Gallo - 92100 BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT (FRANCE), VAT number FR91 662 003 557. Contents © 2020, Reed MIDEM Market Publications. Publication registered 4th quarter 2020. Printed on PEFC Certified Paper.
Country Focus• 6 • OCTOBER 2020
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KOREA Country Of Honour
WHY is it the right time to celebrate Korea as Country Of Honour? Global interest in Korean culture began in the early 2000s with Korean dramas. This was when the label Hallyu, or Korean wave, was born to describe the rise of Korean culture internationally. At the time, some experts predicted that the popularity of Korean dramas would be temporary. In 2020, however, the Korean drama fandom is larger than ever. The Hallyu phenomenon has expanded beyond TV drama and into films and variety shows as well. The film Parasite garnered numerous awards, including at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globes, ultimately winning the Oscar for Best Picture. The format for the variety show I Can See Your Voice has been exported to 10 countries, and Masked Singer is now in some 20 countries. Given this steadily growing attention to Korean content and culture, I believe now is the right time to celebrate Korea as the Country
‘The world is taking notice’ During MIPCOM, Country Of Honour, Korea, has plans to build on its sustained success in the global marketplace. Han Sanghyuk, chairman of government body the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), spoke with Julian Newby Country Focus• 10 • OCTOBER 2020
KOREA Country Of Honour
Of Honour. I believe industry insiders from many countries will see the strength of Korea’s broadcasting content, and this event will be an opportunity to reveal excellent — but yet-undiscovered — Korean content to the rest of the world. How has the K-Pop global phenomenon changed the world’s attitude to Korean content and creativity? One K-Pop expert has said that boy band BTS will raise interest in Korean popular culture overall. In fact, there are many instances of K-Pop fans extending their interest to other areas of Korean content. Research [by the Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, KOFICE] has shown that once consumers have experienced Korean dramas or variety TV shows, they become more interested in those genres than in K-Pop. Craig Plestis [president and CEO of Smart Dog Media], who remade MBC’s Masked Singer for the US, has praised Korean formats for being fresh and unique. I believe that following the success of K-Pop, the world is taking notice of the creativity in Korean culture. What role does the KCC play in the promotion of Korean content abroad? First, the Korean government identifies outstanding content with potential and supports it from the early stages through production. Keeping in mind the aim of overseas export, the government also provides support for production costs and lending editing equipment to small- and medium-sized firms, enabling them to produce high-quality content. The government is also paving the way for co-production. To enable Korean content producers to work with overseas partners from the production stage, the government concludes co-production agreements, hosts co-production conferences and provides partial financial support for related costs. It also supports additional production work on completed projects to reflect the demand and characteristics of overseas markets. The government helps small- and medium-sized production companies to modify production
for export, providing support for translation, captions, dubbing and producing trailers. On the distribution side, the government increases opportunities to publicise content by supporting participation and overseeing showcases at global markets such as MIPCOM. What is the KCC’s — and the Korean content industry’s — strategy for this year’s MIPCOM? The KCC would like to publicise the creativity and excellence of Korean broadcasting content and spotlight Korea’s production capacity to industry insiders from around the world. Although interest is growing, I believe there still aren’t enough opportunities for the world to gain comprehensive information about Korean content. Therefore, during MIPCOM this year, the KCC will host a conference on Korean content, in order to share related information in a thorough and systematic manner. The KCC will also support an online networking programme to connect Korean content producers who have creative and robust stories, with overseas firms interested in Korea. Through these one-on-one business meetings, I hope those interested in Korean content will be able to discover “hidden gems” of content. Korean content producers have both creativity and technical excellence. I hope that Korea can join hands with the world to create a new model of co-operation in various areas of broadcasting content, including production and distribution.
I hope that Korea can join hands with the world to create a new model of cooperation How has the role of the KCC changed with the changing TV landscape? OTT is growing significantly, with a rapid in-
Country Focus• 11 • OCTOBER 2020
crease in subscribers not only in the US and Europe, but in Korea as well. With the declining impact of legacy media, I believe the policy responses taken now will determine the landscape of the broadcasting and video content industry. To realise media diversity in broadcasting, the KCC aims to promote new OTT services and legacy media so both can develop and thrive together. For legacy media, we will innovate regulations — for example with advertising and sponsorship — that do not align with the changing broadcasting-communications convergence environment, in order to breathe new life into the stagnant broadcasting industry. For OTT, the minimal control principle will be applied to regulations to foster industry growth and promote balanced development in the digital media industry in this age of broadcasting-communications convergence. How has COVID-19 affected the broadcast and production industries in Korea? Through pre-emptive and widespread testing and diagnosis, swift contact tracing and voluntary participation and co-operation by the public, Korea has been able to respond to COVID-19 with comparative success. Complying with the containment measures has presented difficulties, for example longer production timelines and higher costs for Korean broadcasting. However, the industry has utilised new methods to overcome COVID-19 with innovations such as gathering viewers online instead of in studio audiences, and voting through ARS [online audience response systems]. Broadcasters are also making great contributions towards preventing the spread of COVID-19. They are providing swift and accurate information to the public on new cases, the government’s response measures and guidelines, for the public. In particular, the educational broadcaster EBS produces school curriculum content for all students, from pre-school to high school, so that students can learn from the TV or online. Their efforts minimise the impact of COVID-19 on public education.
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KOREA Country Of Honour CONTENT WITHOUT BORDERS
Korean Wave power TV audiences across Asia have long been in love with Korean shows. Now, the rest of the world has fallen under the spell of the innovative content from this production powerhouse. Andy Fry finds out why EXPLAINING the international appeal of Korean content, Joun Je-Yeon, director of content business at public broadcaster KBS, says: “Korean content places a strong emphasis on universal themes, like family-oriented stories. And Korean producers know how to make unique and attractive shows. As a result, we believe Korean content has what it takes to travel well all around the world.” KBS started distributing KBS content worldwide via subsidiary KBS Media around 30 years ago, so it has accumulated vast experience in terms of the kind of content that appeals to global buyers. And by embracing the expansion of the pay-TV and OTT platforms, it has managed to license content to numerous non-traditional markets, including the US and Europe. Its biggest breakthrough to date, The Good Doctor, was sold as a format to US network ABC. “The key driver of the worldwide success of The Good Doctor is that the story is based on humanism,” Joun says. “It resonates with the global audience as the protagonist, who has autism, overcomes obstacles and grows into a talented surgeon. Its strength is an appealing story and the US success has made it a globally acclaimed format.” KBS produces across several genres and this has a positive knock-on effect on its export business. Joun cites the example of Oops! We Forgot Your Order, a factual entertainment show that features elderly people with
mild dementia who set up restaurants. The format, which addresses a challenging social issue through the prism of a light-hearted and engaging narrative, has been sold to China, Switzerland and Vietnam, and is in pre-production for season two in Korea. Coming into MIPCOM Online+ 2020, Joun says KBS is highlighting “unique and universal programmes that will be introduced on OTT platforms simultaneously with broadcast TV”. These include comic drama Zombie Detective and celebrity cooking competition Stars’ Top Recipe At Fun-Staurant. Like KBS, commercial channel MBC has enjoyed numerous international success stories, most notably with its entertainment format The Masked Singer. During MIPCOM, Jean Hur, MBC’s director of international relations, says the company hopes to meet new buyers, especially from regions beyond Asia. “We are glad that Korea is the Country Of Honour, because it is an opportunity to introduce our original content and seek new business opportunities,” she adds. “We are open to production partnerships and co-production opportunities in all genres of programming. We think that international co-production can be all the more effective now that COVID-19 is hindering so much international filming.” MBC, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021, is active across drama, entertainment and documentary. “MBC drama series such as Coffee Prince and Jewel In The Palace,
Country Focus• 14 • OCTOBER 2020
KBS’ The Good Doctor, sold as a format to US network ABC as well as reality shows such as Infinite Challenge and I Live Alone, have impressed viewers from Korea and abroad,” Hur says. On the success of Korean content exports, Hur adds: “Koreans are genuinely energetic, but we believe that the power of our content is the key that leads to good business. Asia is, of course, our primary focus market but, when it comes to formats and co-productions, we have partnerships with broadcasters and production houses from all regions.”
KOREA Country Of Honour
The third of Korea’s major broadcasters, SBS, comes to MIPCOM having had a run of domestic success in drama, says Kevin Ko, CEE and MENA sales executive at the SBS Contents Hub: “According to a Nielsen survey in the first half of 2020, SBS ranked the first in household and individual TV ratings in drama among the five major broadcasters. This is a good indicator of SBS dramas’ current competitiveness. The Heirs, My Love From The Star, While You Were Sleeping, Pinocchio and Doctors are the representative works. At MIPCOM SBS will introduce both format and finished content.” Ko says SBS has a strong presence in all Asia, the US, and the Middle East and is building up its presence in Europe, Russia and Oceania. Explaining why Korea content works internationally, Ko says: “Korean culture is neither conservative nor radical, so it has the advantage of universal appeal. Koreans are curious about new things and their interests change quickly, which leads writers and producers to explore diverse stories and new formats.” The big three Korean networks — KBS, MBC and SBS — are the main exporters of content. However, their traditional dominance is being challenged by other companies, including CJ ENM, a production powerhouse that built up its presence in the pay-TV market. “CJ ENM has in-house sales, production and broadcasting capacities,” says format sales director Diane Min. “One of its greatest strengths is its ability to produce shows for its own networks. Our content portfolio spans every type of show, because we own and operate multiple channels that target different audiences.” Min says CJ ENM has been expanding its reach beyond Asia via its finished-programme and format sales business, and has begun exploring co-production opportunities: “Korean audiences are particularly trend sensitive, so Korean content creators and providers are constantly looking to present something new. Initially, our content mainly saw success within Asia, but we have definitely seen a spike in interest from buyers in the West. Korean content offers a unique sensibility that is new and fresh to international viewers.”
Korean producers and directors always push themselves to make something fresh and innovative Jeongin Hong CJ ENM’s MIPCOM mission is not only to introduce new shows to the market, but also to push for the licensing of formats that have already been sold. “Last year was a very busy year, especially for formats,” Min says. “We are hoping that the COVID-19 situation will have improved enough by next year to allow for more production. We are particularly excited about our music entertainment format, I Can See Your Voice, which has already been sold to multiple countries and premiered in the US on September 23.” Another Korean player that has expanded its range of content is Channel A, which produces most of its content in-house. “We do co-operate with independent producers, especially for drama, but we hope that, in the near future, we are able to develop a fully structured in-house production and development team,” says Channel A assistant manager Son Dahye. For Son, Channel A’s biggest strength is that it does not limit itself in terms of genre: “The genre spectrum we explore is wide and we are not afraid of exploring new ones. We have done format and option deals and we have also licensed our original content, including drama and entertainment, worldwide.” Korean content works well abroad because it is unique, Son adds: “It could be the genre or the way the content is displayed, but there is usually something unique. Also, Korean companies are very flexible. At Channel A, we always explore new ways of working and we listen to our buyers.” JTBC has produced several hit TV series over the past decade. Active across a range of genres, JTBC Studios produces and distributes around 400 titles and 4,700 episodes to JTBC Networks and various platforms around the world, including Netflix. Upcoming projects
Country Focus• 15 • OCTOBER 2020
JTBC’s Itaewon Class commissioned by Netflix include All Of Us Are Dead and Annarasumanara. “Despite the pandemic, we have been blessed with a few record-breaking TV series this year, including The World Of The Married and Itaewon Class,” JTBC senior vice-president Jeongin Hong says. “Itaewon Class, which was based on a popular webtoon, had the highest ratings in its timeslot and was licensed to Netflix.” JTBC priorities for MIPCOM include scripted format Graceful Friends and shinyfloor format Super Band. “Graceful Friends is about four suburbanites who find a dead body and, coincidently, the same four were also the first at the scene of a different murder 20 years ago,” he says. “The series is like a male-version of Desperate Housewives, with its sharp commentary on social expectations and how friendships can be entangled in a web of lies.” Formats, both scripted and unscripted, are a JTBC strength, according to Jeongin Hong, citing Sky Castle, which has been optioned by Warner Bros. in the US and Misty, which has been licensed to MBC for MENA. “Audiences all over the world are falling in love with Korean content because Korean producers and directors always push themselves to make something fresh,” he adds. “Also, the language barrier has reduced and we are seeing more opportunities to get Korean-language content commissioned by global streamers. Everyone is looking for a good story, no matter the language.”
KOREA Country Of Honour FORMATS
In tune with demand I Can See Your Voice, which first aired on Mnet in 2015
THE SCALE of success enjoyed by MBC’s The Masked Singer has surprised even the most tuned-in pundits. Since debuting on Fox US in January 2019, the offbeat entertainment show has taken the world by storm, having previously also proved popular in mainland China. With successful versions in countries including the UK, France, Germany, Russia and Mexico, The Masked Singer can stake a claim to being the biggest breakthrough in musical talent shows since the launch of The Voice. The format, which sees mystery celebrities performing songs from behind elaborately crafted masks, has provided a massive boost to free-to-air TV channels at a time when audiences are migrating in large numbers to streaming platforms. It has been one of the appointment-to-view highlights of a challenging year. Aidan Lee, head of format sales at MBC, says: “Some Korean formats have been popular in mainland China and other Asian countries, and a few have travelled to
Korean drama has been selling strongly for many years, so it was only a matter of time before this dynamic creative hub delivered a hit singing format to the world... Andy Fry reports the US and Europe. However, the success of The Masked Singer was beyond anybody’s imagination or expectation. We can confirm the closure of format deals to over 50 countries so far and we are still deluged with offers.”
The success of The Masked Singer was beyond anybody’s imagination Aidan Lee Seeking to capitalise further on the show’s success, Lee says MBC has lined up MIPCOM meetings with TV channels and production houses to discuss second- and third-season deals. In addition, other formats, including My Little Television and Mystery Ranking Show, are being unveiled. “And our documentary department has created fresh factual formats suitable for universal adaptation,” he adds.
Country Focus• 16 • OCTOBER 2020
There are particularly high hopes for My Little Television, a celebrity talent competition series now airing on WarnerMedia-owned US cablenet TBS, with The Masked Singer executive producer Craig Plestis on board. Called Celebrity Show-Off in the US, the quarantine-friendly, social media-inspired show sees contestants develop online videos and compete to gain the highest number of views before the show ends. “After discovering The Masked Singer, I have been on the lookout for interesting Korean formats. Celebrity Show-Off is exactly that — a fresh, fun series unlike anything else on television,” Plestis says. “It has been an almost unimaginable decade since I started my format career as one of the first pioneers in Korea,” says Kim Il Joong, senior director of entertainment at SBS. Back then, if I had suggested a lot of what has happened in recent years, I would definitely have been teased by my colleagues.”
KOREA Country Of Honour
If I had suggested what has happened in recent years, I would definitely have been teased by my colleagues Kim Il Joong About a decade ago, Korean government agency KOCCA saw the potential of the global format industry, and began to provide its support to Korean players. “As one of the first beneficiaries, I met many global colleagues at the Entertainment Master Class in 2008,” Kim says. Since then, the number of broadcasting companies in Korea has skyrocketed from four to nine, causing a surge in the number of players involved in the industry. Prior to the emergence of The Masked Singer, one Korean format that was already doing well was the SBS variety show Running Man. Kevin Ko, CEE and MENA sales executive at the SBS Contents Hub, says the show, which is now nine years old, has sold in its original version to 20 countries, mainly in Asia. “To date, only China and Vietnam have produced local versions,” he adds. “However, in both cases, an SBS production team led the production. We have interest from other countries and will soon launch season one in the Philippines.” According to Ko, part of the franchise’s longevity is down to its adaptability: “The programme has continued to offer new attractions by changing its components. It’s a good illustration of how Korea writers and producers constantly think about new ideas.” One thing that has made the show especially valuable is its success in introducing new talent to the SBS family — something Ko calls a “win-win”: “Discovering new performers with potential and passion is a continuous challenge for broadcasters. Singers, actors, and moderators that develop their profile on Running Man can become active in the company’s other entertainment programmes and help increase fandom.” Although The Masked Singer is an MBC show, Ko says that its success has increased interest in Korean
Ahn Yujin, host of My Little Television formats in general. “Not only studio formats, but various outdoor, variety and reality entertainment shows, which are strong in Korea, seem to be more popular than before,” he adds. One beneficiary of The Masked Singer effect is CJ ENM’s I Can See Your Voice, which first aired on Mnet in 2015 — the same year that saw The Masked Singer launch. In this case, guest musical artists attempt to distinguish between good and bad mystery singers without hearing their voices, guided by clues such as the standard of their lip-sync performances. Having enjoyed success across Asia, the format is now breaking out in several major international markets, with Fox in the US electing to run it alongside The Masked Singer this autumn. With Germany’s RTL and the UK’s BBC also on board, I Can See Your Voice is well positioned to enjoy similar success to MBC’s hit show. Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials at Fox Entertainment, says: “Safely filming I Can See Your Voice was a win in itself, but when we saw the magic of the show and felt the palpable suspense in the room before that first note hit, we knew we had to share it with audiences this season.” Diane Min, CJ ENM’s head of format sales, adds: “Although the show is unique, it’s still easy to follow and viewers at home can play along. The high engagement factor has kept the show on air in Korea for seven seasons.” CJ ENM is not a stranger to format success, having seen tvN’s Grandpas Over Flowers adapted as Better Late Than Never for NBC in a deal brokered by Tim Crescenti of Small
Country Focus• 17 • OCTOBER 2020
World International. Nevertheless, Min says that I Can See Your Voice has opened up new production opportunities in countries where CJ ENM has never produced local series. “It is exciting to expand our global footprint,” she adds. Other leading Korean players also smell an opportunity. “For MIPCOM 2020, we have Heart Signal, a dating show in which eight males and females live together in the ‘signal house’ for a month,” says Channel A assistant manager Son Dahye. “We also have celebrities who sit in the studio watching how people in the house bond, then predict how their relationships will progress. This show was a hit in Korea and all over Asia. We also optioned it to the US and, though it didn’t lead to production, the format was well received.” JTBC, meanwhile, is pitching a show called Super Band to buyers, says senior vice-president Jeongin Hong. “Super Band is a competition show inviting musicians, from street singers to sensational cellists, to collaborate and create original harmonies together as a band. At the end, one Super Band will win it all, but nobody knows how many will be in the band, or what genre of music they will play.” Moving forward, Hong Jeongdo, president of JTBC parent company JoongAng Media Group, believes the partnership “represents an important step towards JTBC’s vision of transforming into a global studio”.
NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown, about to be revealed as the hippo on Fox’s The Masked Singer, hosted by Nick Cannon
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KOREA Country Of Honour
Kim Dong-hee and Jung Da-bin in Netﬂix thriller Extracurricular
The drama continues Hallyu — better known to the international industry as the Korean Wave — started in Japan and China, before sweeping out across Asia. Now, the rest of the world is succumbing to Korea’s addictive tales of star-crossed lovers, scheming parents and zombie detectives. Andy Fry reports KOREAN drama has had an avid global fanbase for many years. Check out any one of a dozen online destinations and you’ll find fans from EMEA, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, India and sub-Saharan Africa debating the relative merits of Winter Sonata, Descendants Of The Sun, Full House and Secret Garden. Coming into 2020, there is no evidence that this passion for K-drama is diminishing, either at home or internationally. Series including MBC’s Coffee Prince and JTBC’s Itaewon Class seem to be attracting as much excitement as their predecessors. And they are not alone. CJ ENM’s head of format sales, Diane Min, says: “When it comes to scripted, our subsidiary production company Studio Dragon has an extensive track record of successful dramas across a variety of genres, including
romantic comedies, family dramas and action/ crime thrillers. Most recently, Crash Landing On You was a huge ratings success in Korea and was also popular with international viewers on streaming platform Netflix.”
Crash Landing On You was a huge ratings success in Korea and was also popular with international viewers on Netﬂix Diane Min It’s a similar story at JTBC, where Sky Castle has been a recent hit: “Sky Castle follows
Country Focus• 20 • OCTOBER 2020
the lives of the elites who would do anything to get their children into the best colleges,” JTBC’s senior vice-president, Jeongin Hong, says. “The series broke all rating records in Korea. Coincidently, a real-life college-admission bribery scandal happened in the US a few months later, proving that parents wanting more for their children is a universal theme. The format was optioned in the US and has become our most sought-out format.” This interest in scripted formats is a relatively new phenomenon for Korea — especially outside Asia. And it has taken Korean drama exports to the next level. A lot of the credit for that goes to KBS’ The Good Doctor, which was transformed into a hit series by ABC in the US and Fuji TV in Japan.
KOREA Country Of Honour
“The success of The Good Doctor in the US provided an opportunity for KBS to make a name for itself worldwide,” says Joun Je-Yeon, the public broadcaster’s director of content business. “It has drawn interest from global producers in KBS programmes, including Blood, a new title from the writer of The Good Doctor, Park Jae-beom. Recently, The CW Network in the US aired the pilot Iconic: TLC, which is adapted from KBS music show Immortal Songs. We are awaiting a series order from CW.” CJ ENM’s Min says her company has also seen growing interest in its scripted formats, particularly action thrillers such as Voice and Tunnel. “We have a couple of formats in development across Europe and the US, so we are hoping for a major hit that emulates KBS’ The Good Doctor,” she adds. Channel A is another Korean firm that has ramped up its activity around scripted formats. “We are making more and more dramas, and we believe our scripted formats have potential in the market,” says Channel A assistant manager Son Dahye. “We are introducing some to buyers during MIPCOM Online+. One new drama, Lie After Lie, is the story of a woman who is falsely accused of murdering her husband.” Another factor that has boosted interest in
Lee Ha-na in CJ ENM’s Voice
Korean scripted formats was CJ ENM’s decision to acquire Scandinavia-based Eccho Rights. Eccho has enjoyed success bringing Turkish drama content to the world, and has now built up a large scripted-format catalogue from several Korean producers. Recent additions include Queen Of Ambition and Incarnation Of Money from broadcaster SBS. Queen Of Ambition is the story of a woman born into poverty who will let nothing stand in her way as she rises to the top. Yun Sangil, deputy general manager of SBS Contents Hub’s global business team, says: “Eccho Rights has a proven track record of getting scripts adapted across borders, ensuring remakes retain the ingredients that made the originals so successful, but also providing something new to the international market.” Alongside the growing interest in scripted formats, the emergence of OTT in Korea has led to a more offbeat and edgy line in scripted content. KBS’ Joun cites comic drama Zombie Detective, about a man who was murdered and born again as a zombie without any memory of his past. “This series is scheduled to be aired on KBS and, simultaneously, on local OTT platform Wavve, which is a joint venture by SK Telecoms and local broadcasters.” Wavve prioritises scripted content and has invested 100% in original drama The Tale Of Nokdu. Then there is the Netflix effect. As in other countries, the streaming giant is providing opportunities for Korean content-makers to explore new narratives via genre mash-ups. After the success of zombie period drama Kingdom, which has been renewed for a second season, Netflix greenlit a quirky slate of shows in late 2019, including supernatural action drama The School Nurse Files, sci-fi romance My Holo Love and thriller Extracurricular, a 10-episode series that tells the story of a group of high-school students who become tangled in a series of conflicts. Greg Lee, producer of the show at Studio 329, says: “Extracurricular first came to us as a short web-series script that writer Gin Hansai had done on spec. Details changed as we developed the show, but the initial set-up was
Country Focus• 21 • OCTOBER 2020
there — an anti-hero series about a seemingly normal high-school kid who secretly moonlights as a prostitution broker.” Lee says the voice of the show was so strong in the script that 329 jumped at the opportunity to develop it further: “Generally, high-school shows in Korea tend to be romantic and optimistic. We felt a show like Extracurricular, which combines genre storytelling with teen drama elements, could appeal outside of the usual K-drama audience. The show touches on darker themes than most Korean dramas. But it’s not a completely isolated example. There have been excellent shows, such as Sky Castle, that deal with similarly dark themes.”
We felt Extracurricular could appeal outside of the usual K-drama audience. The show touches on darker themes than most Korean dramas Greg Lee One challenge with Extracurricular was making the characters feel authentic to the Korean high-school experience, Lee reports: “That meant letting the main characters be contradictory and flawed, and also making sure the way they interacted with each other rang true. We wanted fresher faces in the key roles, so we cast through an extensive audition process. We were lucky to end up with such an amazing, talented cast. All four of the main cast members have landed leading roles in other projects since the show wrapped last year.” Working with Netflix “was a blast”, Lee adds. “They were generally very hands-off, but also provided thoughtful feedback whenever it was needed. Most importantly, they encouraged us to be bold with the storytelling, despite what could be seen as controversial subject matter. We’re developing a new series with Han-sai, the writer, and would love to work with Netflix again.”
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KOREA Country Of Honour
Original Wavve show Lie Of Lies
Korea may have been a late entrant into the streaming race, but its leading broadcasters and entertainment companies are already challenging the global giants, powered by their country’s techcentric economy and tech-savvy consumers. Juliana Koranteng reports
KOREA’S OTT PLATFORMS
Homemade in Korea KOREAN streaming-TV platforms’ relative late start in 2018 (compared to Netflix’s 2007 launch) has not stopped them from making a massive impact on both the local and international market. Korea’s lucrative local pay-TV market still flourishes. However, the country’s streaming operations, led by Wavve, Tving and Seezn, want to go big both at home and abroad with nothing less than the most engaging original and acquired content. “Korean consumers watch videos on various devices, such as PC, mobile and tablet. Watching videos on mobile phones is also steadily increasing,” says Wavve CEO Lee Tae-hyun. “According to a recent report by a domestic research agency, the proportion of video-usage time was ranked first on mobile, accounting for 20% of the total — an increase of three percentage points from last year.”
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Watching videos on mobile is steadily increasing. According to a recent report, the proportion of video-usage time was ranked ﬁrst on mobile, accounting for 20% of the total Lee Tae-hyun Streaming rival Tving, a subsidiary of Korean broadcast and entertainment behemoth CJ ENM, which has significant interests in K-drama and K-pop, says its strategy is influenced by Koreans’ entrenched multi-device viewing habits.
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“Korean audiences are early adopters of new technologies and innovative services,” Tving’s director of strategy and partnership, Cho Young, says. “Our data shows that more than 80% of consumers use multiple devices when they watch content from Tving. It’s critical for us to provide seamless multi-device experiences. Consumers also quickly embraced the idea of OTT VOD because they can watch their favourite content anywhere, anytime, on any device. Even at home, 70% of our users watch our content using their personal devices, not the TVs in the living room.” In a severely competitive sector that research organisation Korea Communications Service says was worth 634.5bn South Korean won ($544.9m) last year (up from 306.9bn South Korean Won in 2016), Wavve is the domestic market leader. Targeting both the national and international markets, the platform was launched last year by Content Wavve, a joint venture between state-owned broadcasters MBC and KBS, commercial TV giant SBS and telecommunications conglomerate SK Telecom. It was created from amalgamating two existing services: Oksusu (a platform belonging to SK Telecom) and POOQ (an MBC, KBS and SBS joint venture), which had a combined total of 14 million subscribers. SK Telecom, the biggest single shareholder in Wavve with a 30% stake, is responsible for the business operations and chasing the required investments. The three broadcasters, commanding an estimated 23.3% each, supply content from their portfolios and co-produce originals with Wavve. According to recent figures from Nielsen Koreanclick, Wavve recorded 3.46 million monthly active users in May. Almost a decade old, CJ ENM subsidiary Tving offers a hybrid model that combines live channels and an SVOD service. It is scheduled to be revamped this year via a joint venture with broadcaster JTBC Worldwide. Nielsen Koreanclick reported that Tving had 2.54 million monthly active users in May — a figure that has almost doubled in about a year. Meanwhile, Seezn is owned and operated by
Crash Landing On You, one of Tving’s highest rated shows another telecommunications goliath, KT Corporation. The platform is AI-powered to help subscribers personalise the service and discover relevant shows based on digitally driven recommendations. Seezn, which replaces KT’s IPTV mobile platform Olleh TV, is designed to be compatible with the emerging ultra-fast 5G technology. Nielsen Koreanclick calculated that Seezn had seen its number of monthly active users grow to 2.36 million in May. As it is targeting a general-entertainment audience, Wavve’s unique selling point is its access to premium content from the powerful production divisions of its three key shareholders, MBC, SBS and KBS. It has pledged to invest 300bn South Korean won in original content alone by 2023, starting with 60bn South Korean won this year. The current flagship original show is SF8, an anthology of sci-fi dramas by eight of the country’s top film directors. “The topics [tackled in SF8] are about the
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society the future might throw at us and the issues, such as AI, AR, robots, games and disasters, are realistically captured,” Wavve’s Lee says. Other original Wavve shows include Zombie Detective, Lie Of Lies, My Dangerous Wife and Alice. “Alice recorded the highest viewership rate of 10.6%, overwhelmingly taking first place among the mini-series on at that time,” Lee adds. Among Wavve’s strengths is the ability to air live shows while offering new and established on-demand hits from its shareholding broadcasters. Lee points out that Netflix, which is also more expensive, will be offering only VOD shows. “Wavve is exerting a positive influence on the Korean media ecosystem as it is actively making large-scale investments to build its own line-up of original content,” says Jung HongDae, head of media strategies in MBC’s media planning department. Jung also points out that MBC will be drawing on the experience it gained from operating POOQ, the streaming platform launched in 2012 before it was
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melded into Wavve. “In the long run we, as a shareholder, expect Wavve to expand MBC’s reach to younger viewers and strengthen our strategic partnerships with other shareholders, while increasing profits and share value,” Jung adds.
Wavve is exerting a positive influence on the Korean media ecosystem as it is actively making largescale investments to build its own line-up of original content Jung Hong-Dae For Tving, founding company CJ ENM plans to ride on the popularity of its existing K-drama and K-pop music productions. Future plans include working with new partner broadcaster JTBC to add original productions and international fare. “We focus on the preferences of our target audience of young female millennials and Gen-Z youth, who seek unique, exciting and new types of entertainment,” Tving’s Cho says. “Our content portfolio has been mainly composed of library shows and K-content, specifically dramas and entertainment shows that have already aired on TV channels. But we are planning to announce our first original shows very soon, as well as extend our line-up with exclusively licensed international content.” Netflix has brought the might of its well-funded quality international movies and shows to Korea. It is also going local by licensing Korean-language shows and forming co-production partnerships. Studio Dragon, a CJ ENM scripted-production subsidiary, entered into a multi-year production and distribution agreement with Netflix in November last year. Another international giant involved in the Korean streaming domain is NBCUniversal (NBCU). The Hollywood studio has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to license K-content from Content Wavve and its
broadcaster shareholders for NBCU’s US and overseas broadcast and streaming channels. If there is one country able to illustrate how new technology is likely to impact on future viewing experiences it is Korea. In addition to offering futuristic shows such as the SF8 sci-fi dramas, Wavve encourages interactive viewing via its personalised discovery service. “Shows are recommended by looking at the audience’s viewing history and individual viewing characteristics,” Lee says, adding that this personalisation technology is now being used to develop other advanced services. The country’s telecommunications groups’ hefty investment in ultra-fast high-speed 5G connectivity is equally expected to enhance the introduction of VR, AR and AI-powered on-screen experiences via streaming platforms. “The one certain thing is that many IPTV and OTT players in Korea will continue to upgrade their personalisation services,” MBC’s Jung adds. When the CJ ENM and JTBC merger in Tving is completed, the platform intends to boost the amount of data-driven personalised content on offer. Additionally, Tving plans to exploit the personalisation infrastructure to deliver what it calls Dynamic Ad Insertion. “When we offer advertisements for the free users watching live linear channels via Tving, we use a technology called Dynamic Ad Insertion,” Cho says. “In live streaming, we can replace original TV advertisements with our own, whereby we personalise ads based on users’ interests and viewing history.” The question industry observers are asking is whether Korea can support the growing number of competitors entering its local streaming sector. Many believe there are more consolidations to come. UK-based tech, media and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight predicts Netflix’s presence will hasten all forms of alliances — including many with Netflix itself. “No local broadcaster or domestic video service is immune to the challenges of taking on the online giant,” he says. “Many local domestic players should do what they do best — produce the
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next blockbuster and rely on working closely with Netflix on production and distribution.” Standing out as a brand will become imperative, as Tving’s Cho points out: “We are competing against very strong players to earn consumers’ love and trust. That is why we use multiple layers of data sets to increase our targeting accuracy. This sophisticated targeting capability not only engages more viewers, but also gives better results to advertisers.”
We are competing against very strong players to earn consumers’ love and trust Young Cho
GLOBAL RIVALS NETFLIX, the world’s biggest streaming platform by both number of subscribers and investment in content, is already making waves in Korea. It entered the market in 2016, before forming an alliance in 2018 with LG U+, one of Korea’s multinational telecoms conglomerates. This gave Netflix access to LG U+’s fourmillion-plus streaming TV subscribers. Following a similar deal this year with LG U+ rival KT Corp, which has more than seven million TV customers, Netflix looks set to be a key player in Korea. Korean media coverage of a report by the Korean Film Council indicates other major international SVOD services, including Disney+ and Apple TV+ and YouTube’s advertising-funded VOD platform, are vying for a space in the increasingly competitive Korean streaming landscape.
050_RM MIPTV 21_MIPCOM
Doc. Formats. Drama. Kids.
58th Spring International Content Market 12-14 April 2021 – CANNES, FRANCE We can’t wait to welcome you back to Cannes this April for the biggest week in unscripted television alongside the most new drama each spring. One MIPTV badge gives you access to 3 markets. For the first time, mipdoc, mipformats and mipdrama will be held together as one combined miptv market experience over 3 days. miptv.com
9 - 14 April
KOREA Country Of Honour EBS’ 4K UHD documentary Qin Shi Huang, The King Of Eternal Empire
DOCUMENTARY & ANIMATION
‘Extraordinary perspectives and interpretations... One of the most remarkable aspects of the Korean content machine is the range of programming that it delivers to the world. The headlines may go to global sensations like The Masked Singer and The Good Doctor but, writes Andy Fry, Korea’s documentary and animation offerings are no less impressive KOREA’s largest documentary-maker is EBS, which has been producing world-class nature, science, history and civilisation documentaries for many years. “The channel’s award-winning documentaries have generated a positive response from the global market, enabling us to work with major broadcasters and platforms as both a sales and a co-production partner,” says EBS’ marketing manager Kim Suna. “We have, for example, collaborated with Smith-
sonian Channel on three projects: Angkor: Land Of The Gods, Wonders Of Burma and China’s Dragon Emperor. We are also working on The Sixth Mass Extinction, a co-production with Thai PBS.” Although the pandemic has caused some productions to be held over until next year, EBS is using MIPCOM Online+ to introduce several new releases to buyers and potential partners. “Our flagship show for MIPCOM
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2020 is the 4K wildlife documentary History Of The Wild,” Kim says. “Planned since early 2019, the title delves into the history of Korean tigers and leopards, and vividly shows them living in the Primorksy Krai region of Russia — their only remaining habitat.” MIPCOM delegates can gain further insights into EBS’ content courtesy of director Jeong Jae Eung, who is participating in a panel on international co-production techniques. “I’ve
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been working on EBS history and civilisation documentaries,” he says. “Mostly, I have been involved with large-scale co-productions, working with Smithsonian in the US, Hunan TV and SMG in China, and MRTV4 in Myanmar.” Jeong’s credits include 3D documentary Ancient Splendours Of Rome; Myanmar, Ancient Mysteries Revealed; and the 4K UHD documentary Qin Shi Huang, The King Of Eternal Empire. The last project is attracting international attention for several reasons, Jeong says: “It tackles misconceptions and uncovers truths about the life of this hero and legend, utilising a compelling drama-documentary technique. It is also visually beautiful. It was filmed with a high-end 4K UHD Amira camera and we used a hybrid cinematic production technique, vividly re-enacting the historic times with CG, CHR, VFX, compositing, etc.” Jeong finds co-pros rewarding, but stresses that respect and good communication are key to success. “When you work on a co-pro, trust is very important,” he says, adding that Koreans make good co-pro partners because
they have “extraordinary perspectives and interpretations... Moreover, we are also known for our advanced technological capabilities. In addition, we make high-quality content at relatively low cost and can guarantee a fair ‘risk share’, which is important. Lastly, we are reliable partners.”
We are known for our advanced technological capabilities. We make high-quality content at relatively low cost and can guarantee a fair ‘risk share’ Jeong Jae Eung Also sharing his insights with MIPCOM delegates is Kim Jinman, an executive producer at MBC, who has been making natural-history documentaries for 15 years. Kim’s filmography includes Tears In The Amazon,
‘Long-lasting character and hand-washing ambassador’, Pengsoo Country Focus• 29 • OCTOBER 2020
Tears In The Antarctic, Insect: The Great Instinct and, most recently Bears (4K). “When making Bears for two years, I met all kind of bears in the Arctic, Siberia, Kamchatka, Japan, China, Europe and Korea. The most beautiful one was a female Korean moon bear, which was wounded in a trap. I followed her for 10 months in the Jiri mountains. She gave birth to two cubs.” Kim often co-produces internationally. Recent projects include Corona19 with BBC Three, Asian Rice Road with A+E, Remodeling Empty House with Discovery and Love In The Era Of Corona19 with Rai. Like Jeong, Kim says storytelling and technology are among the key benefits that Koreans bring to the table, though he also cites “government funding and access to locations like the DMZ” as assets. Just as well regarded as Korean documentary is Korean animation, with several independent studios making their mark internationally. One of the newer players is Happyup Studios, which specialises in 3D CGI animation. “Our
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main target is pre-school,” says director Sam Lee. “From this October, we will broadcast our first animation on EBS, which is a co-production with Lion Forge in the US.” The co-production route is popular with Korean animation companies, Lee says. With the Lion Forge co-production, Comi & Bebe, Lion Forge provided advice and assistance to help adapt the project to the global market. “For example, in one scene, the children bow to their mom and dad,” Lee explains. “Lion Forge pointed out that bowing is very natural to Asians, but looks a bit strange to people from other regions. So we changed it to waving instead.” Happyup has its own production facilities, with personnel who can handle planning, modelling, animation and lighting work. “Korea outsourced Japanese animation for many years and learned from that,” Lee adds. “With investment in animation production technology and the rapid development of our IT industry, we have learned to use CGI faster than other countries. I think this adaptation to CGI animation has created a golden age of Korean animation.” Government support for animation goes back more than 20 years, Lee adds: “Many new studios in Korea can start their first projects in a stable environment through various support programmes from central and local government. Korea has the one of the most advanced and reliable animation support systems in the world. No one can deny that government effort has had a great influence on the development of Korean animation.” One of Korea’s most unusual television and online celebrities is Pengsoo, a giant genderless penguin who has become hugely popular with both children and young adults across Korea. Created by EBS, which is well known for its kids’ animation and educational programmes, the maverick TV star has become a surprise multimedia sensation and has even started picking up fans on the international market. “EBS created Pengsoo’s channel, Giant Peng TV, to address the fact that kids migrate away
Happyup and Lion Forge co-production, Comi & Bebe from EBS when they turn 10- or 11 yearsold,” says Giant Peng TV chief producer Lee Seulyena. “We wanted to recapture the attention of older children who prefer YouTube or content meant for grown-ups.” The solution was to create a character with an authentic personality. “A key part of Giant Peng TV’s success is the way we maximise communication,” Lee says. “We had Pengsoo form a bond with the viewers by engaging in conversations with different people, from children to adults, in various locations, such as schools, parks and streets, as well as communicating on a YouTube channel.” Giant Peng TV content is available across TV and mobile. “The content is uploaded on the Giant Peng TV YouTube channel right after it is aired on the EBS 1TV channel,” Lee says. “Since April 2019, 140 videos have aired on TV and 200 have been uploaded on YouTube. Subscribers exceeded two million in just 10 months.” So after Pengsoo, what’s next? “Giant Peng TV has tried out various genres and ideas. We plan to continue our experiments and communicate with fans, so that Pengsoo becomes
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a long-lasting character.” Lee adds that the over-sized penguin has also played its part as a hand-washing ambassador to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As for international stardom, Lee says: “Pengsoo has been introduced on the BBC and MTV Idols Asia in China and, though Pengsoo does not have an extensive global fan base yet, there are fans from abroad who visit Giant Peng TV and leave comments. There may be some barriers, but we believe Pengsoo can be successful overseas, like Running Man and other Korean shows.”
With investment in animation production technology and the rapid development of our IT industry, we have learned to use CGI faster than other countries Sam Lee
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See you next October in CANNES
Save the date 11 - 14 October 2021 MIPJunior 9 - 10
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‘Anytime, anywhere, any device’
SK Telecom’s service allows viewers to select their preferred angle when watching streamed professional baseball games
Korea is showing the world today what 5G — the ultra-fast, fifthgeneration mobile networks — can do for the global entertainment business of tomorrow. Juliana Koranteng looks at the new platform for immersive content that is set to change the game RANKED as the world’s largest 5G market by global research company Omdia, Korea is home to KT Corporation, SK Telecom and LG Uplus Corporation (LG U+), three leading wireless carriers that started offering consumers 5G-distributed services early last year. The technology’s format is being used for a wide variety of TV genres, including live sports, live concerts, TV dramas, movies and reality shows, as well as the live esports events and video gaming so popular with Gen Z and millennial consumers. KT, which launched the first nationwide commercial 5G network last year, SK Telecom and their rivals promise killer content that, in the long term, will impact on how consumers enjoy on-screen entertainment. This includes
cutting-edge immersive AI-powered 3D holographic images that simulate real-life environments via VR and AR. And they will be accessible on 5G smartphones and laptops. “Thanks to the 5G breakthroughs, people can experience unlimited, realistic services and contents without delay, anytime, anywhere, on any device, under any circumstances,” says
Kwon Ki-jae, vice-president at KT’s 5G B2C service department. KT, SK Telecom and LG U+ have joined forces to invest a reported 34.45 trillion South Korean won ($29bn) in the infrastructure that has been responsible for Korea’s leading 5G status globally.
Thanks to the 5G breakthroughs, people can experience unlimited, realistic services and content without delay, anytime, anywhere, on any device, under any circumstances Kwon Ki-jae
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What is 5G video entertainment? For the uninitiated, the technology allows users to download ultra-HD videos via ultra-fast 5G mobile networks much faster than they can on the current 4G networks. According to experts, a DVD that takes 13 minutes to download on to a 4G smartphone will take just four seconds on 5G in the best-case scenario. Mobile broadcasting today is a one-to-one affair, with the viewer seeing only what the broadcaster or streaming service offers in one direction. But 5G’s greater bandwidth and low latency mean fans will be able to communicate with the content provider and other viewers in real time. The reception for live broadcasts will take place virtually without any delay on the receiving device. Using a 5G wireless device to record and broadcast a live event at a stadium, for example, will in future be comparable to broadcasting the same event via physical outside-broadcast cables today. For the audience, 4K and 8K resolution videos, normally associated with cinema-size TV screens, will be available on mobile handsets. Interactive, personalised content will be a key selling point, as the increased bandwidth will enable streaming operators to deliver multiple angles of the same shot at the same live event to millions of viewers simultaneously. Additionally, 5G-powered mobile entertainment will eventually place high-end immersive entertainment, such as VR and AR, in the consumers’ hands, freeing them of the need to be physically plugged into powerful terminals or PCs. “Future audiences will actively consume video content by hopping from one screen to another, following their own preferences. We believe that 5G will expand consumer choice and boost demand for real-time interactive content,” says Kim Hyuk, head of SK Telecom’s 5GX Media Business Group, who is also responsible for leading the strategy for SK Telecom’s broadband, fixed-telecom and media subsidiaries.
KT’s portfolio features titles including Pro Baseball Live
Future audiences will actively consume video content by hopping from one screen to another, following their own preferences Kim Hyuk
5G TV and video: KT Telecom 5G technology might still be nascent, but the benefits were demonstrated last year in the second season of Children In A Secret Room, an original KT reality series on Seezn, its award-winning AI-powered subscription-funded streaming platform (it replaces the older IPTV platform Olleh TV Mobile). The show — described as Korea’s first multi-view reality series — features celebrity contestants, including pop star Hwang Kwanghee, seeking clues in order to escape from a locked room. For the second season, viewers were given the option to watch the action on five different screens for 24 hours, during which they could chat to and encourage their favourite participants to escape in real time. “Viewers of season two, which began on August 26, increased 1.4 times more than those
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of season one, and the chatting increased twofold. Approvals via the ‘like’ buttons soared 50 times, to 1.1 million,” KT’s Kwon says. Seezn’s unique selling point is its ability to offer personalised interactive 4K and 8K-resolution shows with which fans can engage seamlessly. “It can provide video content with ultra-high definition and ultra-low latency, enabling our subscribers to have immersive 5G experiences,” Kwon adds. “Moreover, we are trying to ensure that the new service is flawless in two-way communications, such as chatting between performers and fans, or among viewers, during live broadcasts by using available tools.” It remains unclear which killer content will drive 5G’s growth. KT’s portfolio already features titles including Pro Baseball Live and Musician Live. Meanwhile, E-Sports Live indicates that KT, like its 5G rivals, is targeting the next generation of competitive video-gaming fans as potential subscribers. For 5G mobile-distributed immersive shows, KT has built its Super VR 4K wireless media network. The service requires an HD headset, which launched last year and is said to be the first VR headset in Korea to connect to a smartphone wirelessly. “We launched our VR IPTV service — the first in the world — in October 2019 and our 8K VR image streaming service in March 2020,” Kwon says. “Through our Super VR service, we provide an array of travel,
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performance and other immersive video content and VR games, where viewers can have first-person, 360-degree experiences.” Kwon also believes that the premium quality of the VR images will inspire content-makers to start producing high-end short-form video content featuring immersive media. “In the next five years, interactive entertainment will further increase to enable customer participation beyond merely viewing,” he says.
5G TV and video: SK Telecom SK Telecom subscribers have been able to access its 5GX Multiview shows since 2019. The service allows individual viewers to select their preferred angle, from close-ups to bird’s-eye views, when watching streamed professional baseball games, live football, golf tournaments, esports competitions, the KBS show Music Bank, and the Idol Star Athletics Championships series from broadcaster MBC, plus immersive experiences in VR and AR. SK Telecom’s Kim predicts 5G will also influence on-location live broadcasting: “The wireless shooting/producing/distributing process using 5G is the only alternative that can replace the legacy fixed-line broadcasting infrastructure, especially for events such as a marathon or golf tournament, where you need to cover a wide area with mobility.” The company’s 5GX MediaLenz, scheduled to launch this year, uses AI to extract any data related to a show (the meta-data), from statistics to background information, spontaneously for the viewer. Kim adds: “It provides various information on a video, such as casting, location, background music and the filmographies of the cast. We use AI technology to automatically extract metadata from a video, and offer them on the right scene, in the right context, even without our audience turning on the service while watching.”
5G + LG U+ LG U+, the third major player in Korea’s 5G telecoms space, is investing heavily in 5G VR/
AR and other immersive content, while also expanding its efforts internationally. It recently joined a global initiative called XR Alliance with other international telecoms conglomerates. The other participants include China Mobile, Canada Bell and Japan-based KDDI. Canadian immersive-content production house Felix & Paul Studios is also involved. In August, LG U+ announced the launch of what is said to be the world’s first mass-produced 5G-powered AR glasses with Nreal, the Chinese MR tech specialist.
5G, gaming and comms Korea’s telecoms goliaths see 5G networks supporting the fast-growing video-gaming market, which research company Newzoo says will be worth almost $160bn by this year’s end. KT recently unveiled GameBox, a cloud-computer game service that enables gamers to play large files of data-heavy video games on 5G smartphones (they have traditionally been played on powerful desktop PCs and consoles). GameBox comes at a time when global tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft are in the throes of launching cloud-based gaming services (respectively called Arcade, Stadia and the forthcoming Project xCloud). Meanwhile, SK Telecom has joined forces with Microsoft to offer a Project xCloud 5G mobile-gaming service in Korea. Furthermore, Korea’s 5G telecoms triumvirate will be using their new ultra-rapid networks to enhance consumer communications. For example, KT’s award-winning Narle is a “social videotelephony” service that allows groups to meet socially via their 3D avatars. It is expected to be a hit during the pandemic, since it enables fans to meet and greet their idols at a time when social-distancing makes physical contact impossible. SK Telecom has introduced a similar venture in VR called Virtual Social World.
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Samsung shipped more than 6.7 million units of its Galaxy 5G mobile devices worldwide last year
State of the 5G market By June this year, Korea boasted more than 7.4 million paying 5G subscribers, according to the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT (information and communications technology). With a population of just over 51 million, Korea has more than 69 million mobile-phone connections and has always been a pioneer in mobile-content development. A 2019 survey by the Korea Information Society Development Institute concluded that 90%-plus of those questioned already watched on-demand streaming-TV shows on their smartphones. Korean electronics-manufacturing conglomerate Samsung not only shipped more than 6.7 million units of its Galaxy 5G mobile devices worldwide last year, accounting for a 53%-plus global market share, but it is already working on 5G-powered tablets and 5G 8K TV sets.
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The future The next phase for growing 5G penetration in Korea includes marketing campaigns to inform the public about the benefits of the new technology. As SK Telecom’s Kim Hyuk says: “We are currently using our PR channels, such as TV commercials, press releases and corporate social media, along with 5G experience zones in our shops where people can walk in and have hands-on experience on 5G devices and services. We are trying to have our customers fully understand the distinctive features of 5G by providing easy and intuitive user experience and interfaces.” KT’s Kwon adds: “When 5G becomes widespread as a technology for everyday life, we expect to see a steady rise in high-definition content and VR/AR services and contents. Kim Hyuk, head of SK Telecom’s 5GX We expect this will be 5G’s strength as well as its indispensable factor.” 068_RM MIPMARKETS_SUPP KOREA Media Business Group
Kwon Ki-jae, vice-president at KT’s 5G B2C service department
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Korea: a cultural superpower
dIturn’s Crazy Judges
Over the past two decades, the country’s cinema, pop music, fashion and TV dramas have swept around the globe, winning hearts, minds and fans on every continent. And the Korean entertainment wave has a lot more power yet, writes Andy Fry KOREA’s television business, like many others across Asia, is built around powerful broadcasters with strong in-house production capabilities. For decades, their top priority was to deliver quality content to domestic audiences. But in recent years, they have turned their attention to the international market, ensuring that Korean-originated scripted and non-scripted TV content has a dynamic role to play on the global stage, alongside K-pop and K-fashion.
Initiatives designed to support this agenda include FormatEast, a subsidiary of broadcaster SBS that was launched in December 2018. Kim Il Joong, senior director of entertainment at SBS, is part of the executive line-up at both SBS’ Global Contents biz Team and FormatEast. He explains that FormatEast was founded “to expand the market for Korean creators and to become a hub of format IP development and distribution”. FormatEast’s main project, Kim adds, is a govern-
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ment-funded enterprise called FormatEast Creative Lab (FC Lab). Kim, who is also chair of the Korea Format Alliance, says that FC Lab’s first year was “very successful, with numerous fruitful outcomes”. He adds: “One ingenious format from the first edition of FC Lab is Lotto Singer [45 Singers], a new music concept from Park Won Woo, who we all know as the creator of The Masked Singer. Another is Boundary, which was created by Kim Miyeon, who achieved
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huge success in China with Running Man. Boundary has been signed to a co-development and distribution contract with Media Ranch, a Canadian format developer that is drawing attention across the industry for its show Watch!” Kim is also optimistic about the ideas coming out of edition two of FormatEast: “I am expecting more positive results this year, because every creator participating has a track record of numerous hit shows and is demonstrating enthusiasm and open-mindedness regarding the international market.” Most Korean content exports involve the major broadcasting groups or studios. But as the country’s content has started to make waves internationally, more and more dynamic and entrepreneurial creatives have been encouraged to strike out alone. A case in point is the aforementioned Park Won Woo, founder and CEO of indie producer dIturn. “I have been developing TV shows for major broadcasters for nearly 25 years,” Park says. “In Korea alone, I have participated in and created more than 150 programmes, including The Masked Singer. I came up with the idea of The Masked Singer eight years ago
and proposed it to many broadcasters. However, I got rejected by all of them. And then I got a chance to produce a pilot episode. And that was the birth of the famous show.”
I came up with the idea of The Masked Singer eight years ago and proposed it to many broadcasters. I got rejected by all of them Park Won Woo Despite his best efforts, Park did not secure rights in the global phenomenon. “I do not want to make that mistake again,” he says. “So I created dIturn to develop new TV-show ideas that I could pitch to production companies. More recently, we have gained production capability and produced three new TV shows in Korea.” Just as significantly, dIturn has started to attract attention internationally. It is producing shows based on its ideas in Thailand and, recently, unveiled a first-look deal with NBCUniversal. “We couldn’t ask for a better
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collaborator,” says Toby Gorman, president of Universal Television Alternative Studio. “Park Won Woo is uniquely innovative and his outof-the-box imagination, paired with his clear and distinct voice, has resulted in countless formats that have travelled around the world. He is highly sought after and we look forward to developing the next big formats together.” Park’s key area of activity right now is music shows with the potential to travel internationally. These include the above-mentioned Lotto Singer, My Ranking and the intriguingly titled Crazy Judges. In the last show, four judges are each handed 100 cell phones that contain the numbers of 100 would-be entertainers from around the world. Based purely on their mobile interactions, the four judges have 14 days to select two performers to represent them in a grand finale. All three shows will be talking points during MIPCOM Online+, where Korea is Country Of Honour. “It is great that Korean content has been recognised round the world,” Park says. “I hope MIPCOM can be a place where many more Korean creators are introduced to the world. The world’s content industry will benefit if it is successful in finding hidden treasures in smaller countries such as Korea.”
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While long-form content is still the priority for Korean content exporters, this technologically advanced market is also making great strides in short-form content. CJ ENM, for example, has a project called The Ramyeonater. “Focusing on digital content, some of CJ ENM’s producers have been making shortform content series on YouTube channels,” says Diane Min, format sales director at CJ ENM. “Creators at CJ ENM are willing to experiment with the format across a variety of genres and themes on different platforms. During MIPCOM, CJ ENM wants to share interesting stories about how short-form content allows us to amplify the content we create and build new relationships with our audience.”
We want to share interesting stories about how short-form content allows us to amplify the content we create and build new relationships with our audience Diane Min Again, there is a dynamic independent flavour to this segment of the Korean content market. Joaquin Rico is head of global business at 72Seconds, a premium short-form content studio founded in 2015 in Seoul. “At 72Seconds, we believe that content has the power to create wonderful, larger-than-life experiences of everyday life. United in this goal, we create hyper-condensed, unique series targeting millennial and Gen-Z audiences,” Rico says. 72Seconds produces for platforms, including Kakao and Naver TV, brands, including KFC, Microsoft, Chevrolet, Samsung and Blizzard, and broadcaster CJ ENM. The studio also produces K-pop content, including originals, ready-mades and formats. Ongoing 72Seconds project dxyz is a drama about two girls that is told “in an extraordi-
Park Won Woo, creator of The Masked Singer nary, unique way”, Rico says. “We leveraged this brand identity to be the first in Korea to license a digital-series format for use in advertising [for SK Telecom and NCSoft]. We have also developed a lifestyle brand around the series.” In addition, the studio is producing a TV series with eight-minute episodes for CJ ENM. “This comedy is about the fun, unexpected everyday life of a family with three teenage children,” Rico adds. The main difference between long-form and short-form drama is pace, Rico says: “We believe web drama should not be a ‘shorter regular drama’. Instead, our series are condensed and amplified to create content that makes sense in a digital space. We achieve this through specialised writing and editing, and using music and rhythm to our advantage.” Outlets vary by series, Rico adds: “For our
Country Focus• 38 • OCTOBER 2020
platform originals, they are viewable on the client platform itself, and we have the distribution rights to most of our content.” 72Seconds’ major partners in Korea include Naver and Kakao. Internationally, partnerships have been forged with, among others, Vuclip, Hanju TV, MNC, Viki and OnDemandKorea. Korea has always been at the forefront of newtech adoption, so it is no surprise that “things are developing very fast on the content front and that audiences are expecting innovation at a fast pace”, Rico says. “It’s a great environment for us to develop digital content.” As for the company’s MIPCOM agenda, it is mainly seeking content partners — “in the form of platforms, broadcasters or producers for content creation”, Rico adds. “Format sales are also a focus for us and we are always open to discuss distribution or co-production opportunities.”
KOREA Country Of Honour
An outbreak of creativity As one of the world’s biggest entertainment exporters with its popular K-dramas and K-pop music, Korea has been hit hard by the lockdown enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite the challenges, the Korean entertainment industry is alive, well and coping, discovers Juliana Koranteng IN THE early days of the pandemic, Korea’s swift response to COVID-19 meant that it was one of the first countries to see a significant fall in the number of cases. However a resurgence in new cases later in the summer forced many TV dramas and shows to halt, suspend or cancel production as strict social distancing once again became mandatory. But this has not dampened the enthusiastic response of the country’s broadcasters, streaming-service providers and creators to Korean viewers’ growing demand for content to enjoy at home.
Here, six leading Korean media executives and creators explain how they are responding to the crisis and its impact on future strategies.
Kwon Ki-jae Vice-president of 5G B2C service department, KT Corporation “BECAUSE there are few blockbuster films opening in cinema theatres, the OTT services have fewer blockbusters. But our Seezn streaming platform is offering contactless live entertainment by replacing films with paid-
Country Focus• 39 • OCTOBER 2020
for live performances and holding contactless fan meetings with entertainers. At the same time, we have enhanced two-way communications via live chats between fans and entertainers during broadcasts, drawing huge response from users. “With the number of attendees at live-studio filming greatly reduced due to fear of infection, studio taping has become impossible, so remote performances have begun using videotelephony. In April, a third-party video conferencing solution and KT’s cloud computing were linked to enable viewers worldwide to
KOREA Country Of Honour
participate remotely in an SBS show featuring famous trot [indigenous Korean musical genre] singers. Fan meetings and other offline events and activities have gradually gone online. “In July, our Narle 5G video-call service arranged a week of contactless fan meetings with the KT Wiz baseball team, which attracted a huge number of KT Wiz fans. Narle, which also provides fortune-telling and tarot-card readings, and advice on love and relationships offline, puts people together for an online ‘talk salon’ service. This is attracting a remarkable response from customers, with an over 50% repeat rate.”
ented productions to be viewed in a different direction. I believe that it will bring about new changes in production methods, cameras, editing. I think this is a new opportunity to transform the broadcast industry. “I would like to extend my gratitude to all the medical staff sacrificing themselves in the fight against this deadly virus and I offer my sincere condolences to all those who have lost a loved one to this disease. Therefore, we should work hard to create TV shows that bring happiness to those people. I think that is our mission as creators. Accordingly, I’m developing various kinds of ideas that will surprise the world again.”
Kim Il Joong
Head of media strategies, media planning department, MBC
Senior director, entertainment division, SBS; executive director, FormatEast
“THE PANDEMIC is taking its toll on the TV industry, which is suffering, especially those productions where scenes requiring human contact is inevitable. However, we believe the damage to the industry won’t be as heavy as it has been on other sectors, because production itself can be done remotely. “It has been reported that more people watched TV or visited OTT platforms because they had to stay home during the outbreak. On the one hand, many were looking for the latest news on COVID-19. On the other, it means more film directors are now working on TV dramas or OTT original content as theatre audiences have shrunk. “In a way, it seems the pandemic has brought a new opportunity to do more non-face-to-face business and has created the possibility of the film industry and online platforms removing the traditional barrier dividing the two.”
Park Won Woo Founder and CEO, dlturn, the original creator of The Masked Singer “COVID-19 will change the broadcast culture in many ways. It will allow studio-ori-
“I BELIEVE this year has been a very tough one for everyone in this field, especially those of us who deal with the international market. We normally hold a monthly global seminar and invite international format experts for idea-development sessions. Yet, due to COVID-19, we could not invite them to be here physically. What we did was invite them to a webinar. Thanks to technology, we have already held three global webinars this year. Although it is hard to stare at the computer screen for more than seven hours, they truly were unforgettable experiences for everyone. This year’s COVID-19 crisis was quite a misfortune for the Korean market, since it was trying to launch a massive marketing campaign to support our Country Of Honour recognition at MIPTV in April. However, we have discovered various alternatives and possibilities with global partners from multiple screen-connected continents over the spring and summer. “At MIPCOM Online+, which we are also attending as the Country Of Honour, we will not find it difficult to convey our potential to the world. In fact, we are excited about the possibility of encountering a new type of
Country Focus• 40 • OCTOBER 2020
online business that we have never imagined before. We Koreans are strong in crises.”
Kim Hyuk Head of SK Telecom’s 5GX media business group; leader of media strategy at SK Telecom’s broadband, fixed telecom and media subsidiaries “COVID-19 is dramatically transforming our way of life, with fewer offline activities and more indoor activities, including working from home. We are observing a steady increase in demand for our broadband internet service, our IPTV platform B tv, our cable-TV service T-broad and our mobile-OTT service Wavve. “As it becomes harder and harder to casually go to movies, concerts or sports events, consumers are trying to fulfil their media and content-consumption needs at various online media platforms. “To cope with these changes, SK Telecom is setting three major objectives: extensive ‘ontact’ or ‘untact’ services to fully transfer offline experiences into the online arena, like live streaming of no-spectator concerts or baseball games; more investment in OTT original content to offer diverse content to consumers; and the development and upgrade of virtual-activity services based on VR, AR and MR technologies.”
Lee Tae-hyun CEO, Wavve “THE OTT industry has benefited greatly from COVID-19. This is based on an analysis of user preference for a service that allows viewers to enjoy unlimited content at a low cost as time at home increases due to telecommuting, distance education and social distancing. However, since our Wavve platform is a monthly subscription service, increasing usage hours does not directly lead to profits. In order to increase the number of users, we are focusing on content production and marketing activities.”
CONTENT FOR SALE Here we highlight some of the content that MIPCOM Country Of Honour Korea is presenting during MIPCOM Online+
A HIGHLIGHT for Korea’s AK Entertainment during MIPCOM is new action film King Of Prison (1 x 108 mins). The movie, directed by Kang Tae-ho, tells the story of a dominant ‘prison king’ criminal who wields power over the other inmates. Circumstances become even more challenging when the prison king’s enemy enters the prison and tries to usurp him with his gang members. The film stars Sol-gu Lee, In-seong Kang and Sang-jae Yoo.
PRE-SCHOOL CGI animation Comi & Bebe (52 x 6 mins) is a co-production for Korea’s HappyUp Studio with Lion Forge and EBS. The picture-book style stories feature the daily lives of young children with their friends and family in their village, in a technique that focuses on mixing music and narrative. The studio’s plans include a second and third series, new media content and a theatrical version.
King Of Prison (AK Entertainment)
Comi & Bebe (Happyup Studio)
MBC KOREAN broadcaster MBC is showcasing a range of programming and formats during MIPCOM. Oh! My Partner is a music talent competition in which two legendary Korean musicians team up with ordinary members of the public to perform their biggest hits in perfect harmony. The musicians and their respective teams, who compete to outshine each other with their performance, must select ideal singing mates out of the participants whose names, occupation and even their vocal skills are kept a secret. Another music-based show is Yooplash, in which fantastic musicians get together to produce a new composition in a relay style, transforming an eight-bit drumbeat of a novice drummer into musical masterpieces. My Working Vlog is an entertaining observational reality show that puts the focus on 24 hours of human activity and interaction in
workplaces. From digital nomads to freelancers, artists, civil servants and even foreign workers, the professional and social lives of workers come under the spotlight. The Paik Father: Cooking Must Go On is a new interactive cooking show, perfectly contact-free for the COVID-19 era. The show features unpredictable interactions between ‘Paik Father’ – a godfather of the culinary world — and a huge screen filled with cooking novices around the world. An extended version of the show introduces the entertaining behind stories of the culinary beginners. An interesting take on virtual reality is employed in Meeting You, a documentary that blends human stories with ground-breaking technology, exploring themes of human consciousness as long-lost and loved family members are brought back by VR, inspiring heartwarming memories.
The Paik Father: Cooking Must Go On (MBC)
Country Focus• 41 • OCTOBER 2020
Meeting You (MBC)
CONTENT FOR SALE
EBS DURING MIPCOM this year EBS (Korea Educational Broadcasting System) is showcasing a new natural history documentary. History Of The Wild (2 x 50 mins). The high-definition two-parter profiles the tigers and leopards in the Korean Peninsula. Previously numerous, the ancestors called tigers and leopards “beom”, and they were considered objects of fear and worship. The first part of the documentary looks at various ancient stories of interaction between the animals and humans, and vividly explores the ecology of Korean tigers and Korean leopards living in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia, which is the only wild habitat for the Korean “beom” left in the world. After the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, these animals became extinct in the Korean Peninsula as the ecosystem of wildlife became severely distorted. The second part of the show looks at the reasons behind the changes in the ecosystem that resulted in the extinction of these tigers and leopards, and how the environment could benefit from their presence.
History Of The Wild (EBS)
DAEHAN MEDIAWORLD THE HONEY Bee Crisis (1 x 52 mins) looks at these amazing creatures, the only insects that produce food eaten by humans. The species plays an even more significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables that humanity requires, and the decline in numbers impacts at the
The Honey Bee Crisis (Daehan Mediaworld)
Chef’s Salt (Daehan Mediaworld)
highest levels on our food chain, posing a grave threat to human survival. Many countries including the US, China and Australia are concerned about how honey bee losses could affect the security of food supply and farmers and beekeepers are doing their part by learning how to care for bees. The documentary explores how after the massive and sudden colony collapses that occurred a decade ago have abated, honey bees are still dying at troubling rates from viruses, disease, parasites, stress and lack of access to food sources. Another factual highlight from Daehan Mediaworld during MIPCOM is The Overland To North Korea (1 x 52 mins), which takes an in-depth look at North Korea’s infrastructure and explores aspects related to agriculture, the livestock industry, forestry, tourism, education and everyday life. Featured subjects include the speciality wheat-noodle based cuisine of the northern city of Wonsan, a boy’s activity camp and the first ski resort in North Korea. Thirdly, Chef ’s Salt (1 x 52 mins) is a 4K/UHD profiles the various ways salt is harvested in different countries including Spain, Philippines, Japan, Poland and Korea. There are three methods used to produce salt — solar, evaporation and rock mining, and this affects the colour, taste, texture and mineral content. A Spanish version of the programme is available.
The Overland To North Korea (Daehan Mediaworld) Country Focus• 42 • OCTOBER 2020
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