Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos highlighted the success of Korean content on the streaming platform, noting that about three-fifths of Netflix’s users have watched a Korean show.
The forum: Sarandos spoke at a forum at Seoul’s Four Seasons Hotel during his three-day visit in Seoul to meet with Korean production partners and government officials, including Prime Minister Han Duk-soo.
“A staggering 60 percent of our members have now watched one Korean title — with viewing of K-content up sixfold globally in the last four years,” Sarandos said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Take just one genre — romance: 90 percent of K-romance viewing now comes from outside Korea. And last year, our Korean movie ‘Carter’ and two TV shows — ‘All of Us Are Dead’ and ‘The Glory’ — hit the Netflix top 10 in over 90 countries. Of course, nothing quite beats ‘Squid Game’ — the biggest TV show in history on any metric we’ve ever seen,” he explained.
Korean storytelling: Sarandos continued on to express his astonishment at the success of Korean content in the U.S.
“Who would have guessed that a TV show made in Korea for Koreans would cause a craze for green tracksuits in America or push sales of Vans sneakers up by nearly 8,000 percent when released on Netflix?,” Sarandos said. “That’s the power of Korean storytelling.”
The investment: In 2016, Netflix invested $700 million in South Korea, and in April this year, the company once again pledged to spend $2.5 billion over the next four years for South Korean dramas, movies and reality shows.
The investment includes working with local organizations to groom young talents — both in front of and behind the camera. One organization is the Korea Radio Promotion Association, which helps local students gain experience in the production industry.
“Between 2022 and 2025, one in five Netflix titles in Korea will have come from a first-time writer or director,” Sarandos said. “Just yesterday, I met 100 students with director Park Chan-wook — all future screenwriters and directors with so much potential. We have to invest in their talent collectively as an industry.”
Asia-Pacific region: South Korea has become one of Netflix’s biggest suppliers of shows and movies, helping add global subscriptions from the Asia-Pacific region, which is the company’s fastest and most consistent source of growth.
Netflix’s conflict: However, the boom led to the company’s conflict with a South Korean mobile carrier SK Broadband over network usage fees.
In 2021, a Seoul court ruled that Netflix must make a restitution payment over its heavy traffic growth, but Netflix is appealing the decision, arguing that the company has no obligation to pay network usage fees.