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What makes Korean dramas such an attractive proposition for Indian OTT players?

Ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo (Good morning), Gahm-sah-hahm-ni-da (Thank you), Sa-rang-hae (I Love You) may not have become part of the vocabulary of soap-loving Indians, but many have become familiar with these Korean phrases. There seems to be a growing wave of Korean pop culture, especially K-drama and K-pop (thanks to the Bangtan Boys or BTS), in India. One would recall the craze for the funny dancing Korean pop star Psy and his ‘Gangnam Style’ in the country in 2012.

Also read:   In an Industry first, Dish TV India introduces ‘Korean Drama Active’

This time, the Korean dramas are finding much love in the country, thanks to the OTT platforms, which have opened the world of great international content for Indians. The lockdown period saw growing traction for international content, including Korean, Spanish and Turkish. Adgully takes a look at what makes K-drama so popular among the Indians and finds that there are quite a few similarities between K-drama and Indian soaps – stories that are focused on family, beautiful background music, and a new and refreshing kind of storytelling – which are also drawing in the youth TG for binge watching.

Speaking about this K-wave, Sugato Banerji, Corporate Head – Marketing, D2H, Dish TV India, observed, “South Korean content started becoming popular in India with the song ‘Gangnam Style’. Since then, not only Korean pop music, but also Korean entertainment and TV serials/ shows have been continuously rising in viewership. Korean drama series are shorter than Indian TV serials and finish in one month, so the plots are tight and compact, making them perfect for binge-watching. These series have familiar settings and societal challenges that the youth of India are facing today. These are about breaking free from the shackles of the past, of backwardness, and making a brighter future. They are typically family drama with wholesome content.”

With the emergence of OTT platforms, audiences now have access to content from across the globe. Elaborating on the same, Mansi Shrivastav, Head – Content Acquisition and Syndication, MX Player, said, “We are witnessing a high engagement on the platform when it comes to international content dubbed in local regional languages. Though Korean content has been featuring across line-ups since the past 10-12 years, the popularity of K-Pop has pushed the viewership in a positive direction. We have curated one of India’s largest catalogues of foreign dubbed content for our large user base, with international content as a genre contributing 15 per cent to the overall watch time engagement on the platform and therefore, small niches such as Korean content are also able to find a sizable audience. In fact, to give you a comparison – our Hindi dubbed Korean shows alone are catering to an audience that is comparable to what an English movie channel is currently doing.”

Stories made in Korea are watched by the world and it is exciting to see the growing love and fandom for Korean content in India. Entertainment fans in India have diverse tastes and love to watch stories from all around the world.

A Netflix spokesperson said, “With subtitles and dubs, our members have discovered and enjoyed authentic K-content from a zombie thriller ‘Kingdom’, to the romantic drama ‘Crash Landing on You’. Netflix offers a diverse and entertaining selection of more than 50 original Korean stories to appeal to existing and new fans of K-content in India.”

This is an exciting time for not only Korean content, but content in any language to be successful anywhere. The Netflix spokesperson further added, “The language barrier is lowering and more audiences are discovering great stories made by the world. Netflix has always been a strong believer in Korean storytellers. Our first Korean original film, ‘Okja’, directed by Bong Joon-ho, released in 2016. We have been significantly investing in Korean content and are thrilled that the Korean slate available on Netflix has the variety and diversity to appeal to Indians who love great stories. We are happy with the progress, but we know we have a long way to go. Netflix is already doubling down on investment in Korean content, and we hope to amaze our members with more incredible Korean stories across genres and formats.”

Over the last couple of years, there has been a noticeable shift in the viewing choices of the audiences. There has been a very positive response to K dramas which are as popular other forms of international content in India.

Dish TV’s Banerji noted, “We have seen some strong uptake for these shows on our platforms. There is a large audience segment out there that is more digitally connected and savvy, eager for new viewing experiences beyond the regular content.  SmartTV and streaming platforms have made K-Drama available to Indian consumers, and this has further led to the robust community of avid K-Drama fans in India. We feel it’s here to stay and will gain more popularity in the coming years.”

Korean dramas made in various genres like romance, comedy, thriller, historical, crime, and action have been reaching an all-time high in terms of popularity. They cover family situations and struggles to make a better future. Many of them are women-centric, where the central characters are fighting to establish themselves in the face of hurdles and societal barriers.

According to MX Player’s Shrivastav, “There has been high engagement for international content on the platform, with Korean romantic comedies working well on the platform. Currently on MX Player, Turkish and Korean dramas have been a major driver in the international category that garners loyal eyeballs. The primary audience for this content are the ones who watch series/ seasons from start to finish. And this loyalist category is what advertisers are targeting and, therefore, the interest has been great.”

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