South Korean video streaming platform Wavve is to supply Korean content to NBC Universal, under a memorandum signed Sunday.
Content Wavve is a consortium established last year involving the country’s three terrestrial broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS, and local telecoms firm SK Telecom.
The two groups also said that the agreement involves co-investment in Korean content development and production. Content Wavve said it plans to spend $50 million (KRW60 billion) this year on original content production. That is a six-fold increase from the KRW10 billion figure touted when plans for Wavve were first announced in January 2019. In November 2019, Wavve raised $167 million (KRW 200 billion) from industry-leading Korean financial investors in order to invest and produce Korean TV drama series and content.
Wavve began producing its own exclusive content last year, with the first title “The Tale of Nokdu” carried in Japan by NBCUniversal Japan. Wavve is now working on “SF8,” a Korean sci-fi anthology series in which eight film directors each direct their own content.
Korean TV dramas, known for their strong production values, have been hugely popular across large parts of Asia. They were the initial programming bedrock of multi-territory Asian OTT platform Viu, and have been a growing feature for Netflix, which has added content through a combination of license deals and content partnerships.
Content has also flowed in the opposite direction. Since January, NBCU has been providing all its new series’ to Wavve in an exclusive manner. It expects to deliver over 200 episodes, including its recent hits such as “Intelligence,” “Cobra” and “The Capture” this year.
According to recent data from the Korea Communications Service, South Korea’s OTT market was valued at $520 million (KRW635 billion) having more than doubled in size since 2016. In a report published last week, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) said that OTT revenues had grown by 32% in 2019. The organization estimated that Netflix’s subscriber base in Korea had grown from around 400,000 in February 2018 to approximately 2 million by the end of 2019.
Wavve was established by the local firms as a means to counter Netflix, though its ambition to have a presence in Southeast Asia has not yet come to fruition.
Wavve was given the green light to launch by Korean regulators in August last year. The company involved the combination of SK Telecom’s Oksusu, which counts 10 million subscribers, with Pooq, an existing service with 4 million subscribers, operated by two state-owned terrestrial broadcasters, KBS and MBC, and commercial broadcaster SBS. SK owns 30% of the equity of the new company, and the three broadcasters 23.3% each.
Other companies already in the market include LG’s U+ Mobile TV, and Korea Telecom’s Olleh TV. “Big-name U.S. OTT services including Disney Plus and Apple TV are considering starting their services in Korea,” KOFIC said.