The Korea Herald


Netflix to push boundaries of Korean media content

By Sohn Ji-young

Published : Jan. 25, 2018 - 17:14

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Global content streaming service Netflix is ready to step up as a platform that introduces South Korean TV dramas and films to new audiences worldwide as well as help Korea push the boundaries of its content genres, Netflix executives said at a press conference in Seoul on Thursday.

Netflix, which officially launched here in January 2016, offers an eclectic pool of films and TV shows from around the world, including those from Korea, to some 117 million subscribers in 190 countries worldwide.

The films and TV programs Netflix carries are either licensed from third-party production houses, or directly produced in partnership with creative talent from around the world under the “Netflix original” label.

The firm’s original creations, exclusively offered via Netflix, include the internationally popular political thriller “House of Cards” and the supernatural series “Stranger Things.” In Korea, the film “Okja,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, was created and distributed in this manner, disrupting the country’s media content business ecosystem.

(123RF) (123RF)

One of Netflix's biggest goals is to give various audiences worldwide access to a vast pool of web television shows, films and content from around the world they may otherwise never get a chance to check out, and potentially become fans of.

In this respect, Netflix wants to help Korea-made content reach viewers overseas, including not existing fans of Korean dramas, but others who may never have had the chance to see and check out Korean shows and movies, according to Kim Min-young, Director of Originals at Netflix.

“Korean TV drama series are already an important content genre in Asia, as it already has a strong fan base in the region. However, we want to help Korean dramas get newly discovered by viewers overseas,” said Kim Min-young, Director of International Originals at Netflix.

“Until now, most Korean dramas known overseas were in the romantic comedy genre. However, we want to help Korean shows in other genres such as mystery thrillers and period action flicks to be discovered by users overseas,” Kim said.

One example includes “Stranger,” the tVN crime thriller series starring Bae Doo-na and Jo Seung-woo, which Netflix bought the streaming rights for under a content sharing partnership with CJ E&M.

Offered as a “Netflix original” series in countries outside of Korea, “Stranger” has been garnering an international fan base of viewers who enjoy watching crime thriller genre content in general, and do not necessarily have a special liking for K-dramas per se, Kim said. 

Similarly, “Okja,” the first “Netflix original” film from Korea, has achieved international fame through the global streaming platform, even being featured in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last year, she noted. 

Kim Min-young, Director of International Originals at Netflix (left) and Rob Roy, Vice President of Content Acquisition at Netflix. (Netflix Korea) Kim Min-young, Director of International Originals at Netflix (left) and Rob Roy, Vice President of Content Acquisition at Netflix. (Netflix Korea)

“What’s really exciting for us is that we are tapped into creators from all over the world. We have the ability to circulate content that wouldn’t have traveled worldwide in the conventional system,” said Rob Roy, Vice President of Content Acquisition at Netflix.

Looking ahead, Netflix also wants to help Korea push the boundaries of its media content offerings. This year, it will be featuring a new Netflix Original Stand-up Comedy Special with YG Entertainment, featuring local comedian Yoo Byung-jae.

Stand-up comedy is a relatively unknown genre in Korea, and Netflix is hoping that Korea’s contribution to the largely western mix of stand-up comedy programs will help bring new experiences to worldwide fans of this genre.

Other plans down the road this year include a new Korean Netflix original TV show series called “Kingdom” which will depict a zombie apocalypse in the ancient Joseon dynasty. Written by drama writer Kim Eun-hee, “Kingdom” will feature Bae Doo-na as the lead actress.

The US company also highlighted the value and benefits of its content recommendation algorithm which helps viewers discover various films, TV shows and documentaries that align with their personal preferences and viewing habits.

Among other techniques, Netflix groups all of its users with similar viewing habits and preferences into so-called “taste clusters” which helps Netflix find and recommend what type of content a particular viewer might like.

“This is really the key to what helps content travel around the world. For instance, if I watch ‘Mad Men,’ I might be recommended to watch ‘Okja’ because we’re in the same ‘taste cluster,’” said Caitlin Smallwood, Vice President of Science and Analytics at Netflix.

“You probably tell your families and friends about what they like to watch. It’s the same concept but it’s done via mathematical algorithms at a massive scale,” she said. “The key is leveraging our massive membership and piecing it with lots of content.”

By Sohn Ji-young (