The Korea Herald


More terrestrial talent hops over to streaming

Will collaboration between local TV directors and streamers be new trend?

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Feb. 22, 2023 - 16:07

    • Link copied

(123rf, MBC, SBS) (123rf, MBC, SBS)

After breaking the boundary between films and TV shows by releasing multiple episodes of drama series at once, video streaming services are bringing about yet another change in the South Korean media environment: content creators working across different platforms.

When terrestrial broadcaster MBC’s star director Kim Tae-ho, 47, made his Netflix debut with “The Hungry and the Hairy” in 2021, Kim's fans, industry insiders and experts felt that would be a one-time thing, as producers for local broadcasters had never directed a show made outside their respective companies.

Some believed that Kim was able to work with the global video streamer thanks to his reputation as one of the top TV directors, being behind two of South Korea’s longest-running and most successful variety shows in “Infinite Challenge” and “Hang Out With Yoo.”

But “The Hungry and the Hairy” was only the beginning.

'Physical: 100,' Netflix’s competition with MBC talent

"Physical: 100" (Netflix)

Collaboration between MBC and Netflix continued, resulting in “Physical: 100,” one of the most viral unscripted shows made in Korea for the first half of this year.

“I believe Kim set a great foothold for other MBC directors, including myself, to challenge themselves in a different environment. I certainly had some hurdles, but I was able to showcase ‘Physical: 100’ in Netflix in the end,” said Jang Ho-gi, creator of “Physical: 100.”

According to the director, the unexpected collaboration was possible because MBC was set on becoming a “global” media company. Jang shared that MBC is trying to provide its content to a wider audience, and this matched his desire to direct a project for a global streaming service.

TV director Jang Ho-gi (Netflix) TV director Jang Ho-gi (Netflix)

SBS collaborates with Wavve, Tving

Local broadcaster SBS' Bae Jung-hoon, who was behind the hit investigative TV show “Unanswered Question,” is scheduled to premiere the new doc series “National Office of Investigation” featuring real-life stories, cases and incidents handled by Korean police, with top domestic streaming platform Wavve.

The upcoming series will mark Bae’s debut on a video streaming service.

Another variety show with the working title “Bro Marble,” helmed by an SBS director and production team, will be released via Tving, the local online streaming service provider run by entertainment giant CJ ENM.

The program, which features the rules of the well-known board game Monopoly, was shot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Tving announced that top singer Lee Seung-gi, actor Yoo Yeon-seok, “Big Bet” star Lee Dong-hwi, comedian Jee Seok-jin and singers Kyuhyun of boy band Super Junior, Hoshi and Joshua of Seventeen will star.

“It is a mixed bag of emotions. ‘National Office of Investigation’ will mark SBS’ first collaborative work with a streaming service. We believe that it is a great opportunity to showcase our production teams' capabilities and promote our brand to more people,” an SBS official told The Korea Herald.

Poster images for “National Office of Investigation” (left) and “Physical: 100” (Wavve, Netflix) Poster images for “National Office of Investigation” (left) and “Physical: 100” (Wavve, Netflix)

The official shared that there are concerns about their talented directors being drawn to streaming services with deeper pockets.

“Though the streamers have a very high expectation for the overall quality and visuals, the directors get enough time to create a show. This differs greatly from the existing broadcasters, which mostly require their creators to complete an episode almost on a weekly basis,” an industry insider who wished to remain anonymous said.

“The directors have more options as they do not need to worry about the current broadcasting laws of the Korea Communications Commission, allowing them to deliver more entertaining scenes to the viewers,” the insider added.

While more TV directors are starting to work with online streaming services, broadcasters feel they can win viewers’ hearts again with unique, mesmerizing content.

“Skills and capabilities of broadcasters’ production team are unparalleled. Variety show ‘Kick a Goal’ and courtroom series ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ are examples that proved that viewers flock to unique and entertaining content. The power of creative content is what matters the most,” a cable channel official surnamed Park told The Korea Herald.