Korean streaming platforms Tving and Seezn have announced plans to merge. The consolidation move is seen as a means to counter the dominance of Netflix, which is by far the largest subscription video player in the country.
The move was unveiled in two regulatory filings by KT Studio Genie, the media unit of telecoms operator KT Studio Genie, owner of Seezn, and by CJ ENM, the 57% majority owner of TVing.
The merger is intended to “strengthen the over-the-top (OTT) platform competitiveness within the domestic media and contents industry, and accelerate the growth of K-contents,” KT Studio Genie said.
Tving CEO Yang Ji-eul said the enlarged entity aims to become the world’s No. 1 K-content platform by utilizing the “content production infrastructure and communication technology of both companies.”
TVing is expected to absorb Seezn and become the largest Korean-owned streaming platform. Figures published locally say that the combined entity will have over 5 million subscribers, putting it ahead of the country’s current biggest platform Wavve at 4.23 million. They also report that Netflix has 11.2 million subscribers in Korea.
Figures from other sources differ substantially, suggesting a different methodology, though the ranking of the competing services remains similar. Independent media consultancy, Media Partners Asia reported that at the end of 2021, there were 14.1 million paid-for video subscriptions in Korea and that of those Netflix accounted for 33% or 4.7 million. The same report credited Wavve with 19% of the market (2.68 million subscribers) and TVing with 18% (2.53 million).
Tving reported an annual operating loss of KRW208 billion won ($159 million) last year. Seezn had operating profit of KRW2.5 billion ($1.91 million) in 2021.
Merger benefits are being touted as including savings on marketing costs and an expanded pool of subscribers that include KT’s 14 million cell phone clients. TVing was last year reported to have spent KRW18 billion ($13.8 million) on marketing.
The move follows CJ ENM’s investment of KRW100 million ($77 million) into Studio Genie last year and the more recent launch of Paramount+ in Korea as an adjunct to TVing. In order to boost its content capacity, CJ ENM has also bought control of U.S. TV production giant Endeavor Content and recently launched a third TV production hub.
The streaming market in Korea remains highly competitive with Disney+ making a strong debut, local Amazon-like service Coupang Play making headway, and Apple TV+ also launched in the country. But the Korean streaming sector could become still tighter if Warner Bros Discovery finally goes ahead with the launch of HBO Max in the country or if Amazon makes a more substantial move.