Ad revs expected to rise due to rates hike, World Cup

SEOUL — It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times for South Korea’s three major broadcasters last year.

Ad revenue for KBS, MBC and SBS dipped 7% in 2001 from the previous year to 1.749 trillion won ($1.3 billion) according to KOBACO, a government org that handles all the country’s terrestrial TV ad sales.

Still, this dip was easier to handle than the situation back in 1997-98, when the whole South Korean economy nearly cratered in the wake of the Asian economic crisis.

Analysts are predicting a 10% gain in revenue this year thanks to a rise in advertising rates and Korea’s co-hosting with Japan of the 2002 World Cup finals.

Cable TV saw increases in ratings while the major webs saw slight declines of less than 1% each. And with over a 90% market share, the terrestrial networks are not panicking just yet.

Domestically produced programming continues to dominate primetime schedules with feature films being the rare exception. The few imported dramas such as “The X-Files” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” must do their sleuthing for audiences in fringe hours, drawing only a fraction compared with their Korean soap counterparts, which regularly rank among the top 10.

Even imported animation for the after-school set has faded in appeal. KBS senior acquisition rep Lee Jung-won, who’s been attending Mip TV for a decade, blames “the mergers between big companies that gobble up little production companies.”

“In the past three or four years it has not been exciting,” she says of Mip. “It is becoming very tiring.”

Like reps at the other networks, Lee views Mip as primarily a place to conduct ongoing discussions. She sees the main value of the market in meeting with smaller production houses from Europe not found at other stops on the circuit.

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