The Korea Herald

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KBS cancels 'Beat Coin' despite show's streaming popularity

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Jan. 3, 2024 - 16:26

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"Beat Coin" (KBS)

Korean Broadcasting System's decision to cancel "Beat Coin," which has been widely popular on streaming platforms but less so on the terrestrial television network's airwaves, has come under fire from the show's fans, who argue that the state broadcaster is prioritizing viewership ratings and profitability over general viewer sentiment.

Starring comedians Hong Jin-kyung, Kim Sook and Jo Se-ho, model Joo Woo-jae and singer Wooyoung, "Beat Coin" is a variety show in which the cast decides their fate with a flip of a coin.

With the plot of each episode dependent on the outcome of a coin flip, the show was positively received for its attempts to make each episode unexpected and devoid of cliches.

The show's structure, in which all the cast members function as co-emcees, was also received positively by the audience. Whereas Korean entertainment shows typically have one person mainly supervising the flow of the show, "Beat Coin" attempts to have all the members lead the course of the episodes on their own.

Despite its positive reviews, however, the show, which started airing July 21, 2022, is scheduled to air its last episode on Jan. 18 due to its low viewership ratings hovering around 1 to 2 percent, according to market research firm Nielsen Korea.

Contrary to the show's low ratings on the airwaves, though, "Beat Coin" has proven comparatively popular on its streaming platform.

The show secured the top spot for KBS' non-drama category for 28 weeks, from May 8 to Nov. 13, 2023, on domestic streaming service Wavve.

Also, according to the entertainment buzz ranking for the third week of December 2023 compiled by content competitiveness analysis firm Good Data Corp., "Beat Coin" secured the 10th position when collectively considering titles from TV, streaming services and online platforms such as YouTube.

Following the announcement of the show's cancellation last month on Dec. 22, viewers opposed to the move took to truck protests, a rare action for fans of an entertainment show.

The trucks, which were stationed in front of the KBS headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, for several days, featured slogans, including, "We oppose the cancellation of a family entertainment show which is watched by mothers, fathers and siblings from elementary school, middle school and high school."

There were more than 600 posts opposing the cancellation of "Beat Coin" on the KBS' viewer petition board as of Tuesday. Among them, more than 40 petitions opposing the cancellation of the show had garnered over 1,000 "approvals," and thus await a response from the broadcasting company. According to KBS regulations, the broadcaster must respond to petitions with over 1,000 approvals within 30 days of being posting.

"In the expanding and rapidly changing world of content, for TV to survive, it is crucial to support programs with new attempts and possibilities. I believe that viewership metrics and program evaluation criteria should adapt to the flow and changes in the world," reads one petition uploaded by a fan opposed the show's cancellation.

"Judging a program with outdated viewership measurement methods is not appropriate," the petition continued.

Another petition uploaded by a fan stated that the show has missed out on the chance to be a hit because it aired in the wrong time slot. After a change in airtime, the show now airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

"The primary audience is likely busy with work or attending academies during the time it airs, making it more convenient to watch it on streaming platforms. The high topicality and the ranking on streaming subscription platforms are not without reason," the petition says.

An industry insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the cancellation of the show is a reflection of the broadcasting company's worsening financial condition.

"As KBS is no longer directly collecting subscription fees from viewers, the broadcasting company is currently under mounting pressure to create a slew of low-cost, high-efficiency programs that can raise money quickly," he said.

According to the official, having the broadcaster's content stream on those platforms for financial gain presents a problem of its own.

"Having the content run on a streaming platform could be a solution, but broadcasting companies don't always welcome streaming their content on streaming services. There's a burden of potential loss of intellectual property or the risk of a loss in production talent," he added.