Territory report: South Korea

SEOUL — Korean television continues to transform, as local TV dramas make strides overseas, and the rollout of new media at home pushes up demand for content, particularly in HD format. Amid the change, imported programming still struggles to gain visibility in a market where regulation is stiff and local product rules the roost.

“If a channel’s ratings were 50% dependent on foreign programming a year ago, now that dependence has reduced to 35%,” says Seung Ae Sohn, head of acquisitions at CJ Media. “However, the need for foreign programming is still large among movie channels. For foreign TV series, we’re looking for strong storylines with strong, sexy characters. These days Korean viewers are very attracted to crime and action series.”

Local TV dramas remain the most-watched shows in Korea, and continue to perform strongly in Asia (a Sina.com poll showed that 55% of Chinese Internet users preferred Korean dramas to those of China or other countries). Peter Kim of KBS’ Global Strategy Team notes that Korean broadcasters are newly aggressive about marketing such dramas at Mipcom and Mip in recent years, investing in huge banners and cocktail parties.

“We’ll place a particular emphasis on marketing to Europe and the Middle East this year,” says Kim.

The top players in cable TV are gaining market share, according to a report from TNS. Korea’s top five program providers — On Media, CJ Media and the cable divisions of the three major networks (MBC Plus, SBS Medianet and KBS Sky) — together captured 72% of viewer ratings and accounted for 17 of the 20 most-watched channels. On Media ranked first with a 27% market share and $132 million in advertising revenues. In a new twist, On Media and CJ Media are also moving into inhouse drama production.

Competition among animation channels is also set to rise, as rivals target On Media’s Tooniverse, which tops all other cable channels in market share. By next year, the Cartoon Network Korea and a Disney Channel are also expected to make their debut.

TOP 3 SHOWS
1. Jumong (MBC)
2. The Infamous Chill Sisters (KBS2)
3. Pure in Heart (KBS)

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