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The Year In Review: OTT’s Breakthrough and Best Year On Record for K-Dramas

2020 was the historical year for all humankind. Despite all the twists and turns in this year, one thing remained constant is the driving force of making original shows. Indeed, 2020 was the year of the OTT, with a number of new streaming services arriving from some of the biggest content providers in the world. OTT was the only segment of media and entertainment that continued to grow, with revenues climbing 26 percent and subscriptions rose 47 percent, according to KPMG.

Korean Drama Craze Over the World

Korean drama crowning glory came in February when Parasite won 4 Oscars and was widely acclaimed for making the Oscar breakthrough. Netflix’s nimble mind on Asia content acquisition soon devoured most top-rated series to its platform under the partnership deals it made with local production houses and Networks.

(Photo Source: Upcoming K-dramas on Netflix in 2021)

After such a stellar year and an unforeseeable future ahead of us, those big players have a lot to live up to. Shortly, Netflix cleverly announced it will invest more on K-content in the upcoming year.

Precisely from this year, webtoons(web-based comics) have carved out a unique role as a source of fresh ideas for producers and screenwriters. TV series like "Itaewon Class" (2020) and "Mystic Pop-up Bar" (2020), dramatized adaptations of popular web cartoon series with the same titles. In addition, the tried-and-true content seems to have increased its presence on the big screen, following the smash-hit fantasy series "Along with the Gods'' Franchise success. Most recently, “Sweet Home”, based on the eponymous webtoon on Naver, tops Netflix rankings globally. The success of this show should catalyze the production of more webtoon IP-based content in 2021.

Naver (the leading webtoon IP hub) has been expanding investments in the global market and its proven global popularity of its webtoon will also bolster the success of webtoon IP-based TV shows.

(Photo Source: A teaser image of the webtoon "Steel Rain" provided by Kakao Page, Yonhap)

Direct-To-Digital Releases

With cinemas temporarily shutting down, even blockbuster slates all went for OTT platforms release to reach their audiences. Mulan abruptly announced to skip theatres to leverage to test the new release format to gain subscribers. Followed by the game-changing move by Warner Bros announced to release its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max at the same time it is available in theaters.

"Consumers are rebalancing rather than reducing expenditure away from outdoor entertainment, cinema, and concerts to OTT and gaming,” it stated in a report.

Today, over 1,200 OTT services, two powerhouses Apple TV+ and Disney+ launched this past November, while WarnerMedia Entertainment and NBCUniversal’s entry into the streaming arena, and Quibi, a short-form mobile video platform came to an end within just a few months. Meanwhile, in Korea we have seen more local OTT players are doubling down on content creation to compete with overseas giants.

To wrap up, Year 2020 presents a key tipping point as COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the process of Direct-to-digital releases. And it also marked as a year of OTT revenues overtake theatrical earnings of films for the first time, revealed by PwC in a recent report.

Our goal throughout the year has been to support our reader with more up-to-date industry insights to help you keep abreast of the current market trends. While 2020 has further propelled the growth of OTT around the world and more demand for Korea content, we can't wait to see what 2021 has in store.