America’s growing appetite for Japanese and Korean content

22 March, 2023

American audiences are growing more interested in foreign content over the last year. This trend has been fueled in large part by the emergence of streaming platforms that offer a wide selection of foreign language content, catering to a diverse audience of viewers with different cultural backgrounds and interests. According to Parrot Analytics’ data, the demand for non-English digital originals grew from 5.9% of the total demand for streaming original shows in the first quarter of 2020 to 8.5% at the end of 2022. 

Streaming platforms have been investing heavily in global content production and licensing, which creates highly praised hit shows that are successful around the world, including in the US. Shows like Money HeistSquid Game and Dark are a few examples of this. Although Netflix takes the lead when it comes to non-English content, other platforms are trying to catch up. According to The Wall Street Journal, Disney announced that it would be spending up to $9 billion per year in worldwide content for Disney+ by 2024. Meanwhile, Amazon execs plan to double the volume of original content annually since 2017 and HBO Max announced it would produce more than 100 local language projects for Latin America alone during the next two years.

Over the last few years, the makeup of the demand for foreign content in the US has been changing. There has been a soaring demand for Asian content and a diminishing demand for European languages like Spanish, German and French. Combined, the demand for shows in these three languages fell from 45.0% in 2020 Q1 to 18.2% by the end of 2022, while the demand for shows in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Hindi grew from 35.4% to 59.8% in the same period.

A driving factor behind the growing demand for non-English content is the ascension of Japanese programming, which surpassed Spanish in the last quarter of 2021 to become the most in-demand foreign language in the US. Netflix is benefitting most from this transition as the company invests heavily in anime, the flagship genre of Japanese content. Shows like Cyberpunk: EdgerunnersAlice In Borderland and Komi Can't Communicate are some of the most popular foreign streaming shows in the US.

On the other hand, Spanish-language content has lost some ground. Following the huge popularity of Money Heist, which had new seasons released from 2017 to 2021, Spanish-language content managed to carve a place as the most in-demand foreign language in the US for several years. But this share has been declining even since before the show finished. In the last quarter of 2022, the demand gap between Spanish and Korean content has been almost completely closed, and Korean-language programming is set to become the second most in-demand foreign language for streaming originals in 2023.  

The demand for Korean shows is largely driven by the popularity of K-Pop, which has exploded in recent years, especially among younger audiences. This has helped to drive interest in other forms of Korean media, largely benefiting Korean dramas. The demand for Korean content more than doubled between the third and fourth quarters of 2021, after the release of Squid Game.


If we look at the generational breakdown of streaming originals’ audiences by foreign language we notice that audiences for Japanese and Korean shows are heavily skewed toward younger generations (Gen Z and Zennials). More than 70% of the audience for Japanese shows and 60% of the audience for Korean titles is made up of people younger than 30 years old. The genres that comprise the bulk of audience demand for the these languages tend to over-index with younger audiences.

Chinese content is also very young-leaning, presenting a generational breakdown very similar to the one seen for Korean shows. This demographic breakdown, coupled with the increasing demand for Chinese content, suggests that Chinese shows may be following a similar path as Japanese titles recently. The most successful Chinese titles in the US market are animations and comic novels that engage with younger audiences like The Daily Life of the Immortal KingGrandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and The Last Summoner, the most in-demand Chinese titles year to date.


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