The Race for Korean Eyeballs: Local Korean Dramas vs Netflix Original Dramas

30 November, 2017

Korean dramas have been growing in popularity worldwide, partially due to streaming services like Netflix bringing them to new audiences. Fans of these dramas are passionate, discussing them on social media, blogs, and beyond, thus further expanding the audience for these dramas. The international popularity of this genre makes these shows an attractive acquisition for global platforms: Netflix announced earlier this year that it has commissioned its own Korean dramas Love Alarm and Kingdom, and has already released a Korean fantasy-romance series My Only Love Song.

Of course, Netflix already has a slate of dramas that it has released to audiences worldwide. How do these dramas compare to the Korean output? By using Demand Expressions per capita, the popularity of these two groups can be compared between their home markets.


Korean and Netflix dramas in their home markets

The demand for Korean dramas and Netflix’s US dramas were averaged in South Korea and the US during 2017 to date, revealing the relative popularity between these two catalogs:

On average, Korean dramas are more popular in Korea than Netflix titles are in the US. This is likely because Netflix has a monthly cost and so has about 50 million subscribers out of the 300 million people in the US, while Korean dramas are primarily on free-to-air channels in Korea and so reach nearly the entire population. Despite this audience disparity, Netflix dramas in the US have only 25% less demand than Korean dramas in Korea, which speaks to the strong slate of shows, like Orange Is The New Black and Stranger Things, that Netflix has produced over the past five years.

Because of this strong catalogue, Netflix dramas are more popular in Korea than Korean dramas are in the US. In addition to its internationally popular series, Netflix enjoyed a boost in popularity specifically in South Korea with the June release of Okja, a critically-acclaimed Korean film, which likely resulted in increasing demand for all of its original productions. There has not been as high a profile Korean drama in the US yet, but the growing popularity of the genre means that one such show could become a hit in the future.


How Netflix can improve its appeal in Korea

Since Netflix dramas are a third as popular in Korea as they are in the United States, the SVOD platform has room to improve its catalogue in South Korea. By analyzing the most popular genres in Korea over the year, the best types of shows to have on the platform can be found:

Netflix has already commissioned a romance and a fantasy series with My Only Love Song and Kingdom, and is also creating its own Korean variety show Busted!, accounting for several of the most popular genres in the region. However, lifestyle series, such as I Live Alone, have 50% more demand than any other genre; since these types of shows are generally cheaper to produce than scripted series, they would make a good addition to Netflix’s catalogue in South Korea.

While Netflix looks to be on a good track in South Korea, it does face competition with Amazon, which also has its own Korean original series. As more Korean titles are released by these platforms, they will of course find viewers in other markets like the US as well, further increasing the global popularity of Korean shows.

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