Korean Wave appears to be ebbing

U.S. TV series make gains with local viewers

SEOUL — The Korean Wave is losing steam, and a report by the Korean Broadcasting Institute shows the measure of the trend.

While South Korean broadcasters exported $50 million worth of content in the first half of 2007, compared with $9.6 million in imports, the gap shows signs of narrowing, as U.S. TV series make advances with local viewers.

What’s more, there are significant changes in the composition of imports. Drama series now account for 55.3% of imports, followed by documentaries (13.6%), feature films (13.2%) and game/reality shows (8.4%). In 2006, feature films made up 56.3% of imports and drama series 24.1%.

Interest in drama series has been particularly strong in the cable sector, which now accounts for 81% of imports compared with 67% last year. Terrestrial broadcasters, in contrast, have shown steadily declining levels of imports in recent years.

U.S. content accounted for 55.3% of total imports, compared with 17% for the U.K., 5% for China, 5% for Japan, and 3.9% for Malaysia.

Exports were dominated by local TV dramas (76% of total revenues) followed by animation (16.7%).

Drama sales were strong in Vietnam and Indonesia, but showed signs of decline in key markets Japan, China and Taiwan.

In the case of China, Korean dramas accounted for only four of the 28 foreign dramas imported in the first quarter of 2007, compared with an unusually high seven titles from Japan, five from Hong Kong, four from Taiwan, two from Singapore and one from Indonesia.

However, a string of Korean game/reality shows, many featuring local celebrities, have proven unexpectedly popular since their broadcast last year.

In Japan, prices paid by buyers are falling in line with an overall cooling toward Korean pop culture.

The trend is turning toward Japanese remakes of Korean dramas, or Korean stars being cast in Japanese programs.

One bright spot in the export picture is Korean animation, which is mostly financed by cable companies. Animated programs delivered $5.5 million worth of sales in the first half alone, compared with $2.8 million for all of 2006, with the U.S. emerging as a key customer.

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