Can K-dramas take off outside Asia?

ACCLAIMED: SBS' thriller, The Chaser, snagged secondary honours for Best Series at the 8th Seoul International Drama Awards.


    Sep 13, 2013

    Can K-dramas take off outside Asia?

    IN THE past few years, K-pop has tapped the hitherto-impenetrable European and American markets with acts like those of rapper Psy, whose single, Gangnam Style, became a universally hot phenomenon.

    However, the same could not be said about K-dramas, which both Australian producer Muffy Potter and American Public Television chief executive Cynthia Fenneman agree are still viewed primarily by a limited, specific audience in America and Australia.

    "I think the (reason) is that South Korean dramas are of a different length," Ms Fenneman.

    According to her, United States television shows run for 42 to 50 minutes, while South Korean dramas average an hour to 70 minutes.

    "That would mean editing content," said Ms Fenneman.

    Ms Potter said: "The other thing is language."

    She noted that, while language would not be an issue in countries where dubbed content is prevalent, selling content to countries that do not share a common language "is probably the biggest obstacle" to the further spread of K-dramas.

    Both industry experts are acquainted with K-drama content and were in South Korea for the 8th Seoul International Drama Awards last week.

    "This is one of the few arenas to really put drama up on a pedestal," said Ms Fenneman. "Of course, (the fact) that it is international is so important."

    According to her, the event is "really putting South Korean dramas on the map".

    This year, five out of a total of 25 nominated works were South Korean. SBS' thriller, The Chaser, walked away with secondary honours for Best Series.

    Yet despite the quality of K-dramas, the genre has yet to gain notable momentum outside Asia.

    Remakes, which eliminate the language-barrier issue, would seem like the most logical way to expand the overseas market for K-dramas. However, according to Ms Potter, the battle to get formats sold and distributed outside of one's country is cut-throat.

    "It is an incredibly competitive marketplace right now," she said.

    That does not mean there is little hope for K-dramas in the broader television market. The market is ripe for dramas, added Ms Potter, with co-production a way to expand K-dramas' reach abroad.

    "I think there is a resurgence in television dramas," said the Australian producer. "I think television drama is the new cinema."