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Disney, Apple, HBO Set To Enter the Korean Streaming Market

Asia’s over-the-top(OTT) video streaming market is growing so strongly that global players have their eyes on this lucrative market for quite a while. If major US streaming services such as Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and Peacock start officially opening up their business operations in Korea next year, competition is expected to be intensified to acquire Korean content, especially provided that streamer giant Netflix is throwing its weight around with its 70 Korean-made originals.

In 2021, new entry markets for Disney Plus will likely include Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. However, the exact date remains unclear.

While some see that such procurement scrambling between global streaming services will raise bids for Korean content, more shows concerns that this move might push the local content platforms out from the big players' game.

Meanwhile, among many domestic OTT users, there is a growing demand for HBO Max. HBO Max, which has rich intellectual property rights (IP) along with its key rival Walt Disney Company, produces a variety of original contents and is attracting the interest of Korean movie fans even before entering the country. According to Variety, Warner Bros. is set to release its entire 2021 film slate, a list of 17 films, including “The Matrix 4”, Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” remake, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical adaptation of “In the Heights,” the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” and “The Suicide Squad” and Denzel Washington’s thriller “The Little Things”. And its most-anticipated “Wonder Woman 1984”, which will be available to HBO Max subscribers for 31 days before it can be rented or purchased on other platforms.

(Photo Source: HBO Website)

This bold announcement to release various genres of films has generated much sizzle over the weekend. And just a month ago, WarnerMedia International revealed its new consolidated leadership team across Southeast Asia and Korea, as HBO Max is in the process to restructure to focus on streaming operations.

As the Covid-19 pandemic becomes further protracted, the stay-at-home order extended from days to weeks, there will be a continuous rise in demand for people who would choose to spend recreational time by watching content online.

South Korea’s top three mobile carriers are taking the initiatives to join hands with Disney Plus and other over-the-top (OTT) services. In particular, SK Telecom Co. set achieving partnership with Disney Plus as the company’s topmost priority, after KT corp., local telecom operator, has expanded its customer base via partnership with Netflix.

On December 1st, a local famous movie translator, Hwang Seok-hee disclosed through social media that, "The translation work for Disney Plus and NBC Universal's Peacock (contents) are also currently being translated into Korean”.

(Photo Source: Wavve and NBC Universal signed a partnership in April to expand the global content ecosystem and export original content. (Provided by Wavve) © News1)

Many Peacock's original content such as DreamWorks animation such as 'Shrek' and 'Minions' or 'The Office' is under the process of translation, and for now it is more likely to be provided through SK Telecom's native OTT channel 'wavve' than launching its own in South Korea.

Mr. Hwang also said, "It seems that Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video are also reviewing several translation companies to start the translation work."

In fact, in the case of Apple TV+, which was launched by Apple in November last year, there have been a handful of contents with Korean subtitles, but between August and September, Korean subtitles have been added to Apple mega hit shows such as 'SEE' and 'Greyhound'. and the Korean user interface (UI) has been updated.

(Photo Source: Apple TV+ shows on Roku platform, Courtesy of Roku)

In the same month, Apple publicly stated, "We are looking for a career editor who will lead video content programmings in Korea with a focus on discovering movie and TV contents."

An industry insider predicted that, "Considering the time until full recruitment, if those employed manpower is for Apple TV+, there is a high possibility that Apple will start its streaming service in Korea as early as 2021."