Crunchyroll Expands Beyond Anime with New Korean Channel (Exclusive)

First move from SVOD service since Chernin Group took stake last December

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Subscription VOD service Crunchyroll is expanding beyond anime, launching a new channel focused on Korean TV drama series.

The new over-the-top video channel, KDrama, is the first major move Crunchyroll has made since the Chernin Group took a majority stake in the company last December. While Chernin  indicated its intent to take the company into new genres, the expansion plan was put in motion before the investment, estimated at less than $100 million, was made.

KDrama launched in beta Tuesday exclusively to existing Crunchyroll subscribers in North America but will be made available to new subs at a later time to be determined. That could mean adopting the same offeirng as Crunchyroll, which is a combination of free ad-supported content as well as a subscription component that also includes discounted e-commerce options related to the programming.

But instead of streaming translated anime licensed from Japanese TV networks minutes after they air, KDrama plucks thousands of hours from Korean broadcasters KBS, MBC, SBS and CJ E&M. The hope is that the content proves as exportable as anime, which Crunchyroll has sold into 160 countries and counting via branded website and apps. KDrama is already available in the iOs and Android stores.

“Korean culture and content is starting to get to the same mainstream levels as anime has in the past, which made it  ripe for a premium content offering,” said Crunchyroll CEO/founder Kun Gao.

Gao says there’s no specific plans in place for more channel launches but they are exploring options. “We’ve always had aspirations to replicate the anime model,” he said. “The next step is identifying what other pockets there are of passionate, engaging fans to super-serve?”

Chernin Group’s assets include Chernin Entertainment, which produces feature films and TV programs; a majority stake in Hong Kong-based media and entertainment company CA Media; and several strategic investments in digital media companies, which have included Pandora, Fullscreen, Base79, MiTú, Tumblr, Flipboard and Scopely.