The buying spree started last year, when Japanese ecommerce giant, Rakuten, founded by Hiroshi Mikitani in 1997, announced in September 2013, that it would acquire Viki for $200 million. Although Viki streams a wide diversity of foreign-language series, its strongest programming has been Korean dramas. The move came up as Rakuten are investing heavily in reinforcing their presence in digital contents distribution outlets, with other acquisitions such as in e-books (Kobo, January 2012), social bookmarking (Pinterest, May 2012), video streaming (Wuaki.tv, June 2012) and more recently internet messaging and calling (Viber, February 2014).
Then, very recently, actually earlier this week, Japanese telecommunications giant, Softbank, announced the acquisitions of DramaFever – the other Korean drama streaming service available here in the UK! The move follows the appointment of Nikesh Arora – former Google employee – to head the Japanese company’s internet and media unit and an earlier $250 million investment in U.S. producer Legendary Entertainment – which has recently opened operations in China (Legendary East). The idea behind this acquisition is for Softbank to have valuable and relevant contents and platforms to make available to a younger skewing audience on their mobile services, which include Sprint in the U.S. Softbank Ventures were already initial investors in DramaFever, so the full acquisition comes almost in natural continuity.
We could add TV Tokyo to the list, as they are investors in Crunchyroll, the joint-venture with The Chernin Group, which recently launched the service KDrama.com (on February 20), renamed SoompiTV on October 7. Created in 2007, Crunchyroll saw TCG take a majority stake in December 2013, but TV Tokyo still remain, although as minority investors. SoompiTV aims to roll out in other territories, including in the UK, although no specific plans have been presented yet.
In other words, the three leading English-language Korean drama streaming services are owned by Japanese NTIC companies. While the increasing focus of Japanese productions towards their domestic market, notably due to the heavy involvement of TV broadcasters, has made international sales a more difficult business, the Korean wave appears as a new driver for Japanese new media corporations’ international expansion, allowing to target a very key audience: young people, and especially female 18-24.
||August 6, 2009
||February 20, 2014
||The Chernin Group, TV Tokyo
||$80-140 million (tbc)
||$100 million (TCG, for majority stake in Crunchyroll)
||San Francisco, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai
||San Francisco, Seoul
||3 million? (Soompi)
|Languages for Subtitles
Launched in February 2014
|Not yet launched
|Monthly Subscription Fee