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More Korean Shows as Netflix Sets to Invest $2.5B on Korean Content

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By Abi Gibson - - 5 Mins Read
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A movie tab of a tablet with a pack of donuts

Netflix is increasing its focus on Korean content following the worldwide success of viral series such as Squid Game, The Glory, and Physical: 100.

In a statement directed toward the Korean press, the streamer announced on Monday that it plans to allocate $2.5 billion towards the production of Korean TV series, movies, and unscripted shows over the next four years. This substantial investment is twice the amount that Netflix has spent in Korea since its launch in 2016, as per the company's claims.

During a state visit to Washington, D.C. on Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos to discuss investment plans, which were initially revealed during the meeting.

Sarandos expressed that their decision was possible due to their immense faith in the Korean creative industry's ability to narrate exceptional tales. He confidently stated that their investment would undoubtedly fortify their enduring alliance with Korea and its creative ecosystem.

Sarandos, accompanied by Bela Bajaria, Netflix's chief content officer, Minyoung Kim, vp content for Asia Pacific (excluding India), and Kang Dong-han, vp Korean content, held a meeting with the Korean president at the Blair House located in D.C.

The Korean press reported that Yoon expressed support for Netflix's recent investment pledge, highlighting it as a significant prospect for both South Korea's entertainment industry and Netflix.

Netflix's Korean content aspirations were initiated by Sarandos himself, who financed Bong Joon Ho's $50 million sci-fi action film Okja in 2016. Subsequently, the streaming platform has been at the forefront of the worldwide expansion of K-content, with the release of several international successes such as Sweet Home, Squid Game, Hellbound, and the recent reality TV sensation Physical 100 and feature film Kill Boksoon.

Netflix's Korean content investments have been instrumental in boosting subscriptions across Asia, where the premium video market is still experiencing growth. In 2022, Netflix launched 29 Korean dramas exclusively, with six of them ranking among the top ten most-viewed titles in the Asia-Pacific region, as per MPA, a regional consultancy.

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MPA's analysis reveals that Korean dramas topped the list of most-watched content in APAC last year, making up 28 percent of the total viewership in the region. U.S. series came in second with 25 percent, followed by U.S. movies at 12 percent and Japanese anime at 10 percent.

Industry veterans in the marketplace have noted that Netflix is not the only company showing great enthusiasm for the Korean content sector. Other major players such as Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+ are also investing heavily in procuring and creating original Korean content. This has led to a rapid increase in the costs of acquiring top talent and titles.

The streaming services within Korea, which have the support of local giants such as Tving (backed by CJ ENM studio, JTBC broadcaster, and Naver tech company) and Wavve (jointly owned by KBS, MBC, and SBS broadcasters, and SK Telecom), are making significant investments in local content to attract viewers in both domestic and regional markets.

Sarandos stated that Korean creators are currently situated at the center of the worldwide cultural movement during his conversation with Yoon.

It should be remembered that Netflix announced in January that the worldwide interest in K-content is still on the rise, as more than 60 percent of all Netflix subscribers viewed Korean titles in the previous year. Hence, Netflix plans to introduce a wide range of Korean television series, movies, and unscripted programs by 2023.

According to Netflix, the demand for K-content has remained strong in 2022, and the platform is expanding its selection to cater to fans worldwide. In the past year, Korean series and films have consistently ranked in the Global Top 10 list in over 90 countries, and three of the most-watched shows on Netflix are from Korea. Don Kang, VP of Content (Korea), stated that Netflix is committed to pushing boundaries and delivering captivating and diverse Korean storytelling. With this impressive lineup of Korean titles, Netflix will remain the go-to destination for viewers seeking compelling and must-see content.

According to the streaming service, "Squid Game" had "111 million fans," making it Netflix's biggest series launch ever. The show premiered in September and quickly became the top show in 90 countries. In October 2021, it was announced that "Squid Game" was on track to be the No. 1 show in Netflix history.

Additionally, the show's popularity extended beyond the screen, with many people dressing up as characters for Halloween and sharing recipes for the honeycomb candy featured in the show on social media.