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KOCCA: Korea Creative Content Agency - TV Shows

Programming Profile

Finding the next K-content hit


South Korean governmental agency Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), which oversees and coordinates the promotion of the Korean content industry, is this week showcasing new content from the country via C21 Digital Screenings, while general director Dohyoung Lee gives his analysis of the international boom in K-content.


Exports of South Korean television content have been on a steady upward curve ever since the early days of the Korean Wave almost 20 years ago, when dramas like KBS2’s 2002 hit Winter Sonata made such an impact on the global market.


Fast forward to today and more of the world is watching even more K-content. Just look at some of the biggest US shows in recent years. ABC’s adaptation of another KBS2 series, The Good Doctor, was the only global hit coming out of the 2017/18 season in the US. And on the unscripted side, the global success of talent show The Masked Singer has been a phenomenon over the past two years, following its debut on Fox in the US in 2019.


Dohyoung Lee, general director at the Broadcasting Division of KOCCA, is certain these two recent K-content hits have driven demand for more programming from South Korea.


I Can See Your Voice
I Can See Your Voice

“The Good Doctor has definitely been a big success, with its fourth season so far on ABC in the US. The show changed preconceptions in the US about Korean dramas and adapting them locally. Following The Good Doctor, some other K-dramas are now being developed for the US market, such as Sky Castle [aka Tribeca] from JTBC, which is being developed for NBC, and Live from CJ ENM, which is being developed for Fox,” says Lee.


In the unscripted space, MBC talent show hit The Masked Singer “has dominated the world,” he adds. “It has been adapted in about 30 countries and there seem to be more in the pipeline. Singing format I Can See Your Voice, from CJ ENM, has also launched on Fox recently and keeps winning the top ratings position against other shows in the same time period. It has also been commissioned by BBC1 in the UK and RTL in Germany.”


The success of The Masked Singer has certainly led to other local adaptations of the format in other countries, as well as helping the Fox commission for I Can See Your Voice, the KOCCA exec adds. “I have heard that there are now lots of proposals to adapt Korean formats, even paper formats, from Western territories, including the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere.”


The Whale Road
The Whale Road

These recent format hits come after previous deals for K-formats such as Grandpas Over Flowers, which was successfully adapted as Better Late Than Never by NBC in the US in 2016, and the international productions of Korean formats such as Running Man, Show Me the Money, Oops! We Forgot Your Order and The Genius Game, among many others.


So the global demand for K-content, whether it’s scripted drama or unscripted formats, is by no means new but is certainly having a big moment this year, as Mipcom Online+ celebrated South Korea as Country of Honour. The Korean TV industry even survived a dip in export figures due to the Chinese ban on Korean content in 2016 by finding new markets for its programming and formats in places like Turkey, Latin America, the US and Europe.


A delve into the KOCCA export data illustrates this point. Total exports of TV content, including formats and DVDs, stood at US$309m in 2013, rose to US$336m in 2014, dipped to US$320 the following year and jumped to US$411.2m in 2016. After the Chinese ban, the figures dipped to US$362.4m in 2017 but then soared to US$478.4m in 2018, the latest year for KOCCA data, as those new markets were reached.


Longing Heart
Longing Heart

But even without the data for 2019 and 2020 being available yet, one can safely assume that the numbers will be up, thanks to formats like The Masked Singer and I Can See Your Voice travelling so much during this period. South Korea’s prowess in unscripted formats is not the only factor driving demand for K-content, however. The rise of OTT over the past few years has further boosted demand and the global profile of K-content, according to Lee.


“We can also see some global K-drama hits on Netflix these days. Kingdom, for example, was the streamer’s first Korean original series and is now also famous all over the world, while Crash Landing on You was ranked in the top 10 on Netflix in the US last March. The tvN show became a huge success in Japan and all over the Asia region as well. Itaewon Class, from JTBC and Netflix, was also a sensation in Asia,” he adds.


“The type of drama that is being exported is changing because of the OTT platforms. Korean broadcasters and producers now don’t need to sell their dramas to other countries if Netflix buys it. Netflix pays enough money so that these companies can recoup their costs and achieve a profi. Netflix gives us a chance to distribute Korean TV series all over the world, including territories we have never reached before.”


The Honeybee Crisis
The Honeybee Crisis

Despite the growing popularity of K-content in the US and Europe, the biggest market for Korean TV series is nevertheless somewhat closer to home, according to Lee. “Japan has the highest demand for South Korean TV series. As of 2018, exports to Japan were US$95.78m, which accounts for 34.6% of the total programming exports, marking a 16.9% increase over the previous year,” he says.


“The reason why Japan has the highest demand for South Korean TV series is that, first of all, there is similar cultural background between the two nations. Furthermore, with the overall development of TV series in Korea, the quality of Korean content, such as drama, reality shows and documentaries, has improved and thereby has gained popularity in Japan.”


To extend the Korean Wave further, KOCCA is this week showcasing 21 companies and their shows on C21’s Digital Screenings. Some highlights of the playlist include AK Entertainment’s Halloween thriller Fanfare, K-pop reality series Oh My Girl’s Miracle Expedition from Ava Entertainment, Bethel Global Media Company’s natural history series The Whale Road and Channel A’s romance Lie After Lie.


Fate and Furies
Fate and Furies

Also on the playlist are CJ ENM’s physical gameshow Cash Back, developed with leading US prodco Bunim/Murray Productions, Companyaent’s romance drama Longing Heart, documentary The Honeybee Crisis from Daehan Mediaworld and EBS’s look at Korean wildlife, History of the Wild.


JTBC’s murder mystery drama Graceful Friends is also in the mix, alongside astronomy doc 23.5 from KBS Media, romantic drama Fate & Furies from King Content, musical competition Oh My Partner from MBC and quizshow format Koreigners from MBC Plus.


From Pan Entertainment comes drama thriller Death Penalty Referendum, while the playlist also includes PlayOnCast’s documentary Future City Chernobyl, futuristic drama Alice from SBS Contents Hub and Seesaw Pictures’ documentary About Love. Also on the KOCCA playlist are gameshow Master of Sense from start-up Something Special, I Know What You Did from recently rebranded UniK Studios, drama Kiss Goblin from WhyNot Media and Tasty Love from Yoon & Company.


Master of Sense
Master of Sense

The list of companies in KOCCA’s K-content showcase on C21 Digital Screenings this week reflects some major changes in the kinds of companies exporting programming from South Korea these days. Four or five years ago, the main exporters were the distribution arms of terrestrial broadcasters such as MBC, KBS and SBS, since they were the ones commissioning most of the programming.


More recently, however, these companies have been joined by the distribution arms of cable and satellite broadcasters like CJ ENM, JTBC and Channel A, which have enjoyed huge growth over the past three years as international demand for K-content soars. CJ ENM has even cemented its position in global distribution by acquiring Sweden-based distributor Eccho Rights in 2018.


Over the same period, another change has also been seen in that a number of South Korean independent production companies have begun retaining rights to their productions and have started distributing them to international buyers directly. This has created a much more diverse and vibrant South Korean programming export industry driven by terrestrials, the cabsat sector and independent companies.

More programming profiles

  • 07-10-2022

    Extraordinary Attorney Woo, the latest drama phenomenon from South Korea, has transformed the fortunes of a local TV channel and is set to wow audiences at Mipcom.


    Having spent the summer firmly planted in the global top 10 of Netflix’s most watched non-English-language originals, Extraordinary Attorney Woo has lived up to its name since launching on ENA in South Korea in June.


    The series has delivered the Skylife-owned satellite channel’s highest ever ratings, transforming its fortunes overnight since it debuted. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is also the seventh highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history and the sixth highest-rated TV drama by the number of viewers, with a final episode that pulled in almost 4.5 million viewers in August.


    Starring Park Eun-bin, the show follows a rookie female attorney with autism spectrum disorder who is hired by a major law firm in Seoul. Being different from her neurotypical peers, her manner of communication is seen by them as odd, awkward and blunt. However, with each legal case and through her intelligence and photographic memory, she becomes an increasingly competent attorney.

  • 31-08-2022

    Jessie K.M Jeong, vice president and chief operating officer at South Korean cultural export agency KOCCA, looks ahead to the upcoming BCWW event in Seoul and explores trends in the production and distribution of K-content.


    How will BCWW 2022 be different from previous editions of the event?
    BCWW 2022, unlike its previous edition which was conducted as an online market in 2019 due to the spread of Covid-19, will be organised in an offline format in conjunction with online markets. This year’s event will be attended by 168 local and international content companies as well as 609 buyers from 31 countries.


    On its 22nd anniversary, BCWW 2022 aims to provide sustainable and lucrative network and business opportunities for stakeholders involved in the broadcasting industry at both home and abroad under the theme ‘Play the New Content, Dive into the BCWW.’ The event will also feature conferences addressing current trends in the broadcasting industry, presentations on emerging content, IP pitching and various other programmes.


    BCWW 2022 will be a foundation for exploring newly emerging content and more effective content businesses that could complement the limits and challenges of online markets.


    After two years of Zoom meetings, how important will it be to have BCWW in the real world?
    Broadcasting content markets not only serve as commercial platforms for purchasing or selling content but also as social platforms for interactive engagements and networking.

  • 18-08-2021

    Do Hyoung Lee, general director of broadcasting at Korean cultural agency Kocca, explains the ongoing demand for South Korean content while introducing 18 new shows to the international buying community.


    South Korean drama has been a global phenomenon for many years now, with wave after wave of hit shows spreading out from Asia and reaching the US and Europe in recent years.


    But things have certainly moved on from the good old days of Winter Sonata, the KBS hit that put Korean drama on the global map almost 20 years ago. Things have changed even from the more recent crossover hits like The Good Doctor, another KBS show from 2013 that was successfully adapted for ABC in the US in 2017 and travelled the globe.


    Since then, the streaming boom – both within South Korea and internationally – has changed the landscape for Korean drama in a number of ways. Over to Do Hyoung Lee, general director of broadcasting at South Korean cultural agency Kocca, to explain how.


    “The popularity of Korean drama has continued globally this year, just as it did in 2020,” he says. “As competition has been getting more fierce among domestic and foreign online streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, Wavve and TVing, demand for Korean drama has increased and there has been more investment in production. This trend has stimulated the diversity of Korean drama.”

  • 01-02-2021

    South Korean content has been selling around the world for a long while but last year saw a boost in demand, according to Kocca’s Do Hyoung Lee, who talks us through the content export agency’s 21-title playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings.


    It’s no secret that South Korean dramas and formats are hot property and have been for some time now. Scripted shows like The Good Doctor (from Korean public broadcaster KBS) and entertainment formats such as The Masked Singer (MBC) and I Can See Your Voice (CJ ENM) have travelled to all corners of the globe in recent years, either in their original form or as IP for local production.


    Do Hyoung Lee, general director at the broadcasting division of the South Korean government’s Korea Creative Content Agency (Kocca), says the origins of the K-format boom can be traced back to 11 years ago.


    “Korean formats started to get noticed in China in early 2010 and have since seen remarkable achievements in the global market,” he says. “Following the success of The Good Doctor and The Masked Singer, another K-entertainment show called I Can See Your Voice broadcast in the US on Fox and became the most watched programme among those on air in that time period.