International demand for streaming Asian motion pictures and TV exhibits is rising

Scene from Netflix’s Squid Game

Source: Netflix

The popularity of NetflixThe hit drama “Squid Game” and other Korean series, as well as the recent success of films like “Minari” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once” have helped boost demand for Asian-language films and TV shows worldwide.

Much of this demand is due to US viewers having easier access to global content than ever before, thanks to major streaming services like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery‘s Max, as well as niche offerings like Rakuten Viki, which focuses on Asian entertainment.

Streaming services’ unwieldy libraries have led some media companies to take cost-cutting measures to make the apps profitable. But investment in Asian, especially Korean, content is still high.

Loved all over the world

According to data provider Parrot Analytics, the share of global demand for Asian-language content reached 25% in the first quarter of this year, up from about 15% in the same period in 2020.

As the supply of such content exceeds demand – which means more is being produced than people see – the gap between the two is narrowing, said Brandon Katz, entertainment industry strategist at Parrot. In the first quarter, supply in the Asian language category exceeded demand by 4.7%, an improvement from 9.8% in the first quarter of 2020.

“Some may think that global supply exceeding demand could mean a slight drop in investment. But that gap is getting smaller,” Katz said, citing the success of Netflix hits like We Are All Dead. and “The Glory”. “There is steady progress that will be reflected in 2022.”

Since the beginning of this year, those titles have consistently occupied four spots in Netflix’s Global Top 10 Non-English TV Hits, along with Squid Game and Extraordinary Attorney Woo. The thriller series “Squid Game” temporarily took first place.

Last month, Netflix announced that the company would be expanding its Korean content, roughly doubling its total investment since it began offering in Korea in 2016. The giant streaming service said it plans to invest $2.5 billion over the next four years to produce more Korean shows and movies. The investment comes after 60% of all Netflix members watched at least one Korean title by 2022.

Although the global demand for Korean-language TV shows has increased since the beginning of 2020, it has still been outpaced by the supply of content. Meanwhile, that demand has stagnated compared to other Asian-language TV series, particularly Japanese and Chinese, Parrot said.

Netflix will focus on more than just the increasingly popular Korean drama genre, Don Kang, Netflix’s vice president of Korean content, recently told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia.

“Our main focus is the local audience in Korea. We have found time and time again that if a show is loved by a Korean audience, there is a very high chance it will be loved by audiences or members around the world as well,” said Kang.

Beyond the mainstream

Netflix is ​​part of a larger trend. Its popular shows — along with hit Asian-American films like Minari and Everything Everywhere All At Once, which recently won top honors at this year’s Oscars — have benefited other streaming platforms and US audiences for more opportunities open Asian Movies and TV Shows.

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Rakuten Viki home page

Source: Rakuten Viki

Rakuten Viki, a streaming service from the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakutenhas experienced a growth spurt in various Asian language content in recent years.

The company said its registered user base grew 27% globally in 2022, leading the streamer to increase its content investment by 17% that year. Korean content still makes up the bulk of the service’s content, but viewership of Japanese, Chinese and Thai-language shows also increased.

Karen Paek, Vice President of Marketing at Rakuten Viki, said in an interview that while the company has been in the Asian entertainment space for more than 10 years, it has recently seen a growing interest and passion for its shows around the world, where these are mainly shows licensed.

“With Viki in particular, we’re seeing a shift in the ethnic makeup of our viewership toward non-Asians,” Paek said. “But at the same time, the total number of viewers is growing.”

Paek said the streamer sees an increase in registered viewers and viewership in general as hits like “Squid Game” reach the mainstream.

Rakuten Viki’s user base is so passionate that the subtitles for much of its content are actually created by a community of volunteers around the world. Its content is primarily produced and created in Asian countries, although the service licenses hits like “The Farewell,” particularly during Asian American Pacific Islander month, for its US audience.

Other streaming services take a similar approach. Max said Asian content would be boosted and highlighted during AAPI month.

“We’re seeing a shift in audiences in terms of what they want to watch outside of K-Dramas,” Paek said, citing Chinese and Japanese dramas as well as the “Thai Boy Love Genre” that has been a huge hit for the service.

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