K-Drama Industry Faces Challenges as Productions Decline | Be Korea-savvy

K-Drama Industry Faces Challenges as Productions Decline

K-Drama (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

K-Drama (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – In media appearances following the conclusion of dramas, actors have frequently stated that they haven’t decided on their next project yet. This common response is often followed by the explanation that the production of new dramas is on the decline. 

The Korean drama industry is facing concerns of contraction due to a sharp increase in production costs and actor fees, coupled with a downturn in the advertising market. This has led broadcasters and local streaming platforms to reduce the number of dramas they produce. 

According to the Korea Drama Production Association, the number of dramas broadcasted or released by domestic broadcasters and online streaming video services decreased by about 7.4% in one year, from 135 titles in 2022 to 125 last year. 

Notably, SBS, once celebrated for its prime-time dramas, currently has no weekday dramas in its schedule. Following the conclusion of “The Killing Vote” in November last year, no new drama has taken its place, and the once-popular Monday-Tuesday slot has been empty since “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” ended in May last year. Additionally, daily dramas have been off-air since 2017. 

MBC continues to air daily dramas, but its Monday-Tuesday slot has been vacant since “Kairos” ended in December 2020. The network’s Wednesday-Thursday dramas have also been sparse, with no new series planned after “A Good Day to Be a Dog” concluded on January 10.

JTBC, which has broadcasted a significant number of dramas, has had no Monday-Tuesday dramas since “The One and Only” ended in December 2021 and has not scheduled any Thursday dramas since “Destined With You” last October, with a three-month gap until “Queen of Divorce” hits the airwaves on January 31. 

tvN, known for its hit series, has not released any new dramas during its regular Thursday evening slot since “Stealer: The Treasure Keeper” concluded last May. OCN, famous for “The Uncanny Counter” and “Voice,” has not aired weekday dramas since 2019 and weekend dramas since 2022.

The drop in drama productions is also evident among local streaming platforms. Tving released only six original dramas last year, down from 13 in 2022, and Wavve released just two, “One Day Off” and “The Deal,” down from four in 2022.

Global OTT Platforms (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

Global OTT Platforms (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

However, global streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ have either maintained or increased their output, with Disney+ releasing nine titles in both years and Netflix increasing from 11 to 13 titles from 2022 to 2023. 

Bae Dae-sik, Secretary-General of the Korea Drama Production Association, has expressed concerns that the number of dramas could drop further this year, to around 100 titles. 

The reasons behind the reduction in drama productions are clear: soaring production costs and stagnating or declining revenues. 

A terrestrial broadcaster noted the longstanding issue of advertisement revenues falling short of production costs, worsened by a contracting ad market.

The significant rise in appearance fees for top stars is identified as a major factor driving up production costs, with some actors commanding up to 1 billion won per episode. Some producers have lamented that while the industry has grown, only a few actors reap the benefits.

Global streaming platforms, especially Netflix and Disney+, have contributed to inflating the fees of popular actors, making it challenging for local production companies and broadcasters to afford these costs.

To address the downturn in the drama market, industry stakeholders suggest reducing dependence on popular actors or adjusting their fees. 

Bae Dae-sik, from the Korea Drama Production Association, emphasized the need for open discussions among broadcasters, streaming platforms, the government, and management companies to find solutions, acknowledging that while there are no guarantees, dialogue is essential for resolving the industry’s challenges.

M. H. Lee (mhlee@koreabizwire.com) 

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