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Localization, copyright issues biggest obstacles to streaming platforms’ global expansion: CEOs

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Dec. 18, 2023 - 14:51

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From left: Coupang Play CEO Kim Sung-han, Tving CEO Choi Joo-hee, Culture Minister Yoo In-chon, Watcha CEO Park Tae-hyun, Wavve CEO Kim Tae-hoon pose for a photo after a meeting led by Culture Ministry held in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) From left: Coupang Play CEO Kim Sung-han, Tving CEO Choi Joo-hee, Culture Minister Yoo In-chon, Watcha CEO Park Tae-hyun, Wavve CEO Kim Tae-hoon pose for a photo after a meeting led by Culture Ministry held in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

Localization and copyright issues are the biggest hurdles standing in the way of local streaming platforms’ global expansion, said heads of local streamers Watcha, Wavve, Tving and Coupang Play, pointing to the need for government-run funds to support the industry.

“The streaming business is all about global expansion. (In that context), we don’t have any issues in terms of technical difficulties against Netflix. Rather, it is the localization cost that is the issue when competing globally,” said Lee Tae-hoon, CEO of Wavve during a meeting with the Culture Minister You In-chon held in Seoul on Friday. The meeting was organized as part of the ministry’s efforts to hear about the industry's difficulties and seek solutions together.

More specifically, Lee of Wavve said it would be a big support to the industry if the government were to establish funds for local streaming platforms' localization requirements such as subtitles and dubbing. Relaxing the current legal framework on copyrights so that the music used in local content can also be played abroad was another request by the industry leaders.

“We have noticed that some countries prefer seeing Korean content with subtitles, whereas other countries prefer dubbing in their language," said Park Tae-hoon, CEO of Watcha, which operates Watcha Japan. "I’m sure that if the government supports the localization cost, it would decrease the obstacles for platforms' overseas expansion," Park said.

“Streaming platforms have to make an all-in investment in their content. So when the government strengthens direct support for local streaming platforms, I’m sure that they will create a virtuous cycle of money flow and streaming platforms’ investing in small and mid-sized content production firms,” said Park.

Coupang Play has been seeking ways to expand overseas, though it is only in its third year since launching, according to Kim of Coupang Play.

“Foreign streaming platforms ask local translation firms to make subtitles for their content, and the number of requests is massive. It’s so massive that local streaming platforms' requests for subtitles are often delayed,” said Kim, asking for government funding for Korean streaming platforms' localization strategy overseas so that they can do subtitles and translations in-house.

Tving CEO Choi Joo-hee pointed to a loophole in government funding for content production.

“When the government creates funds for content production, it’s production firms that benefit," said Choi, pointing out that production companies sometimes benefit from both state funding as well as tax incentives. Choi asked the government to look into establishing funds for local streaming platforms’ strategic and region-specific localization plans.

According to Choi, around 90 percent of those in their teens to 30s watch content on streaming platforms, but the average revenue per user has been declining, adding to the platforms’ losses, whereas the content production cost has been rising by 20 to 30 percent each year.