Is Disney+ and Tving equal Netflix’s success in Korea?

Comedian Yoo Jae-suk in a promotional video for Disney+ Day. (Walt Disney Co. Korea)
Comedian Yoo Jae-suk in a promotional video for Disney+ Day. (Walt Disney Co. Korea)

With plans to release a star-studded lineup of original content, Disney+ and local streaming platform Tving — among others — are set to begin another round of competition in the streaming video and content production markets in South Korea.

Disney+, the flagship streaming service of US media giant Walt Disney Co., was widely considered a possible rival to Netflix when it launched in November 2021.

It found strong early demand with hit Marvel and Disney series, but things did not go as anticipated.

The streaming service offered “Outrun by Running Man,” a spinoff of the popular SBS variety show “Running Man,” as its first original content. But it failed to meet viewers’ expectations, many of them feeling that the spinoff was not much different from the original.

Three original series — “Rookie Cops,” “Grid” and “Kiss Sixth Sense” — received lower-than-expected interest. It did not help matters that “Snowdrop” (2021), a highly anticipated JTBC drama exclusively available on Disney+, came under fire for alleged distortions of history, leaving an unfavorable impression on local viewers.

Disney+ hopes to turn the tide by showcasing fresh projects.

MBC’s crime thriller “Big Mouth,” which was streamed via Disney+, topped the top 10 chart in six countries — Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan — according to the US-based streaming analytics company FlixPatrol.

On Thursday, its second Korean original unscripted show “The Zone: Survival Mission” starring top comedian Yoo Jae-suk alongside actors Lee Kwang-soo and Kwon Yuri, will be released.

A courtroom series “May It Please the Court,” led by top actor Jung Ryeo-won and veteran actor Jung Jin-young, will premiere on Sept. 21. October will see the release of the streamer’s first dating reality show “Pink Lie.”

The biggest Korean original project at Disney+, “Casino,” stars top actor Choi Min-sik, bringing his “Oldboy” fame to the lineup. The series is expected to be released later this year.

Promotional images of Tving (Tving)
Promotional images of Tving (Tving)

Tving, local entertainment powerhouse CJ ENM’s subscription-based streaming platform, is likely to continue its steady growth.

Following the success of its original contents — “Seoul Check-In,” “House of Lies,” “Yumi’s Cells 2” and the streamer’s latest hit program “Earth Arcade” — Tving continues to set new records in the number of paid subscribers and unique visitors.

Veteran filmmaker Lee Joon-ik’s much anticipated drama series debut “Beyond the Memory,” widely known by its Korean title “Yonder,” will be released in October. Another notable project, “Food Chronicle,” Tving’s first food documentary series, is expected to bring diversity to the lineup for the second half of the year.

Through a partnership with Paramount+ and an upcoming merger with local video streamer Seezn in December, Tving is expected to surpass No. 1 domestic streaming platform Wavve in the number of monthly active users. Tving is expected to have over 5.6 million monthly active users compared to Wavve’s 4.2 million.

While Netflix is expected to retain its top position in the streaming video market with 11 million monthly active users as of June, its original series are slowly losing steam. The service is finding it difficult to hit one home run after another as it did with “Squid Game,” “My Name,” “Hellbound” and “The Silent Sea” in 2021.

However, local streaming platforms Watcha and Coupang Play are still lesser-known. Apple TV+ has only released one Korean original series, “Dr. Brain,” since arriving in South Korea in November 2021. Disney+ and Tving are the streamers who pose a significant threat to Netflix’s dominance in the Korean market.

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