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Covid draws Korean content into Indian view lists, firms' investment bouquet
3 min read.Updated: 10 Aug 2020, 11:58 AM ISTLata Jha
These crisp and entertaining shows and films have struck a chord with audiences
Korean content has garnered great interest, especially among the millennials because Indian youth are able to relate to the situations and narratives it explores
Moving beyond Hindi, English and other local languages, Indians are now viewing content from the neighbouring Asian country South Korea. That these crisp and entertaining shows and movies have struck a chord with audiences is evident from the investment companies are making in them.
Last week, direct-to-home service provider Dish TV India Ltd announced the launch of a new offering, Korean Drama Active, to be available on DishTV and D2H platforms; it gives users access to premium Korean drama content dubbed into Hindi.
The faith that Dish has in Korean content does not seem misplaced. After English and local language content, Spanish, Korean and Japanese titles drive the highest viewing for American streaming service Netflix in India. The second season of zombie tale Kingdom was in the India Top 10 series row in March 2020, when it released.
Korean series such as It’s Okay to Not be Okay and Crash Landing on You have also featured in the India Top 10 overall and series rows. Local streaming services such as MX Player also report that Korean content has been a big driver for the international category with shows such as Rich Man, King's Love and 1% of Something.
“Korean content was initially viewed by people in states such as Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, but post the covid lockdown, we’ve seen its consumption grow across households," Sugato Banerji, corporate head, marketing, D2H, Dish TV India Ltd said. Content in the language was so far available only on streaming platforms and pirated movie sites and not mainstream television. Also, with television production halted for months due to the covid-19 pandemic and operations yet to resume in some parts, this makes for ready content with mass appeal.
“Korean content has garnered great interest, especially among thmillennials because Indian youth are able to relate to the situations and narratives it explores," said Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player, whose service has commenced a deal with south Korean television and radio network SBS for 10 plus new shows and is in active conversation with other players in this category.
“The cultural similarities between the two nations are quite fascinating. The belief in family values while pursuing a modern approach towards life resonates really well with the viewers in India," Bedi added.
Like India, Korea, too, is transitioning from a poor to developed country and has the same pulls and pressures, Banerji said. However, unlike Indian serials that go on endlessly, a Korean show is tight, packed with action and often ends its run within a month, managing to completely hold your attention while it is at it.
To be sure, the fact that Indians love Korean tales is evident in the number of Hindi films that have ripped them off over the years. Salman Khan’s Bharat was a remake of Ode to My Father (2014) while mystery thriller Ek Villain was an unofficial adaptation of I Saw the Devil (2010).
Bedi added that Korean drama has seen an increase in popularity in recent years in India given the ease of access through various OTT platforms; K Pop (a genre of south Korean music) has also been trending in India as are popular K Pop artists who are part of leading Korean dramas.
After years of piracy, Korean originals also came to the fore earlier this year when Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy Parasite won the Academy Award for best picture and was subsequently released in India, making box office collections of Rs2.34 crore.
The film was later acquired by Amazon Prime Video where it is also available in Hindi, proving that content is clearly transcending geographical barriers as the world becomes one global community thanks to the Internet and social media.
Carter Pilcher, chief executive at ShortsTV, a London-based television channel dedicated to short films, said with the popularity of Korean cinema continuing to grow internationally—and in India in particular—this has become an exciting category for the company. Indian viewers are increasingly on the hunt for gripping content and Korean films and dramas provide the unique story lines which cater to them.
“This is an exciting time for not only Korean content, but content in any language to be successful anywhere. The language barrier is lowering and more audiences are discovering great stories made by the world," a Netflix spokesperson said, and added that the company was doubling down on its investment in Korean content.