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[Newsmaker] Disney+ arrival heralds fiercer competition in Korean streaming market


Disney+ logo (Walt Disney)
Disney+ logo (Walt Disney)

After years of courtship by mobile carriers, Disney+, another US-based content giant, is to arrive in South Korea in November, raising expectations of a new phase of growth for the local streaming market after Netflix’s entry years ago. 

The Walt Disney Co. Korea announced Wednesday its mobile content streaming app would be available here from Nov. 12, promising a wide-ranging library of content. 

Content available for streaming will include that produced by Disney, Pixar, National Geographic and Star, as well as the Star Wars universe. 

Star is new to Korea. It offers general entertainment programs produced by ABC, Twentieth Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures for viewers from different age groups. New original content produced by domestic studios here will also debut on Disney+ through Star. 

The subscription fee will be 9,900 won ($8.50) per month or 99,000 won per year, the company said. Disney+ will allow up to seven people to share a single subscription. Four can simultaneously access the app from different devices.  

“Considering that Asia, including Korea, is rising as a hub of media and content, Disney will raise its competitiveness with its outstanding storytelling and innovative content capabilities,” said Jay Trinidad, general manager of the direct-to-consumer division in the Asia-Pacific region at Walt Disney. 

The Korea launch of Disney+ has been a hot topic in the Korean telecommunications industry. 

All three major telecom firms here made concerted efforts to partner with Disney, boasting their pools of subscribers and high-speed broadband networks. 

Among the three, the smallest, LG U+, appears to have been chosen by Disney, although neither side has officially announced the partnership thus far. The firm was the local partner of Netflix as well when it first launched here.    

LG U+ CEO Hwang Hyun-sik said Tuesday the two sides are “in the last stage of negotiation.” 

With the arrival of Disney+, competition is expected to heighten in the Korean streaming content market. 

So far, Netflix has been the largest streaming business in Korea with around 9.1 million subscribers as of July. Homegrown rival Wavve has around 3.2 million subscribers. 

Disney+ seems to have an upper hand against Netflix in terms of price. Unlike Disney+’s fixed monthly and annual fees, Netflix offers three fee plans differentiated by the number of simultaneous users and viewing quality. For four viewers to access the app at the same time in the best quality, Netflix charges 14,500 won a month.