SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – A decade after its establishment, cable TV network broke through the ratings ceiling by bypassing the longstanding record of 2 percent to hit 3.5 percent.
Though the increase of a mere 1.5 percentage points may seem trivial from the outside, on the inside the mood is reportedly one of considerable excitement, with the production crew of the show “Welcome, First Time in Korea?” taking home “immediate” bonuses.
In the words of producer Moon Sang Don, “When ratings hit 2 percent, one of the senior members was deeply moved and quipped ‘To think that our channel could reach 2 percent’, but now that we’ve hit 3 percent, he is in a state of utter bewilderment.”
Moon added, “Afterwards, though we thought that if our ratings would pass 3 percent it would be amazing, there was a lot of doubt that such a thing could happen. Which is why when our ratings went over 3.5 percent we were all very surprised.”
The reason for the bonuses and joy (and the one senior employee’s bewilderment) is “Welcome, First Time in Korea?”, a show that features foreigners living in South Korea inviting and showing around their friends or family from their native country.
MBC Every1 released the pilot episode in June, and it has quickly solidified its spot in the Thursday 8:30 p.m. slot. After only its 3rd episode, the series ratings reached 2.06 percent according to Nielsen Korea.
Steadily building on its small but loyal viewership base, August 31′s episode scaled the once thought to be impossible 3 percent mark, and ratings for the September 14 episode reached a once unfathomable 3.54 percent. For the prior three weeks at that particular time slot, MBC Every1 led all cable and IPTV channels in ratings.
The secret behind the show’s success is differentiation from competitors in the market. When asked about the inspiration for the show, Moon said that he thought there were too many TV programs about traveling abroad, making the genre dated, and he was curious about how foreigners would see Korea.
The show’s appeal to Koreans is in its authenticity; though a translator is attached to the film crew, he or she does not intercede in the various situations that arise as the cast grapples with how to make their way through the country. Besides setting the overall framework, the vast majority of the content is generated by the characters, leading to insightful and original observations on South Korea that are refreshing to Korean viewers.
The show has featured Italians, Mexicans and Germans so far. The episodes featuring a group of Germans wrap up on September 21, with the next group expected to be from Russia.