Wavve, one of the largest Korean-owned video streaming platforms, has announced a plan to buy out KOCOWA, a specialty distributor of Korean content in the Americas. Wavve says that the acquisition will accelerate its advance into the American and global marketplaces.
The two companies already have significantly overlapping ownership structures. Wavve, which operates largely within South Korea and competes with Netflix, Disney Plus and Tving, is jointly owned by the country’s three main public broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS and private sector giant SK Telecom. KOCOWA is jointly owned by KBS, MBC and SBS.
KOCOWA currently offers Korean content to subscribers in some 30 countries in the Americas, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. It has its own streaming application ‘KOCOWA+’ and also distributes content to local OTT and cable TV service providers including Amazon Prime Video, Google TV, Rakuten Viki, Roku, Comcast Xfinity, Xumo, and COX.
“With the acquisition of KOCOWA, Wavve has positioned itself as a provider of main broadcasting content and original drama, film, entertainment [and] documentary content for Korean subscribers as well as the subscribers in the Americas,” Wavve said. “Wavve […] will provide a wider global audience with an original lineup of popular dramas such as ‘Weak Hero Class 1,’ which was streamed concurrently in Korea and overseas. Wavve also plans to offer a variety of content services including the globally popular dramas including ‘The Law Café’ and ‘Cheer Up’ and global artist content such as NCT’s reality-variety show titled ‘Welcome to NCT Universe’.”
The company also said that it aims to uses KOCOWA’s English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitling and dubbing service for more content.
“With the acquisition KOCOWA, Wavve plans to gradually expand its global business and strengthen its strategic partnership with global media groups to facilitate joint investment in content and grow the subscriber base,” said Lee Tae-hyun, the CEO of Wavve.
Competition for Korean content is running hot. So too is competition between streaming platforms that see Korea as their fiefdom. This includes Netflix, which is the streaming market leader in Korea, Disney+ which is investing heavily, Tving which is backed by CJ ENM, JTBC and Naver, Wavve and startup Watcha. Other multi-territory platforms too have made Korean content a core part of their mission, including Rakuten’s Viki and PCCW’s Viu, which does not operate within Korea.
Rising costs, competition and the limited size of the now maturing South Korean marketplace are all causing the players to carefully reassess their strategies at home and abroad. Korean media have reported that Tving, Watcha and Wavve last year lost a combined KRW157 billion ($120 million). Some KRW56 million $42.5 million) of that accrued to Wavve.
These pressures may push them into offering ad-supported tiers, towards various forms of partnership or spark mergers and acquisitions.
Some consolidation has already occurred within the Korean streaming market. Local player Seezn is to be acquired by Tving. And financial analysts have speculated that Watcha, that operates as a streamer in Korea and Japan, may be a bid target for another Korean tech giant LG U+.