With fast internet and a population of early adopters, South Korea has already produced generations of live-streaming trends. However, the latest trend is somewhat of a throwback: tapping traditional news media broadcast styles to push curated content.
Vivian Lee used to work at MBC, one of the top three major broadcasting companies in Korea. After leaving the company, she started broadcasting her own news series called “News Reading Girl.” In an era where readers and viewers have an influx of news content, individual content creators are cutting their own niche in the market, and in South Korea it’s taken the form of self-produced news shows.
As part of her program, Vivian recently invited the top Korean players of OverWatch, a game created by Blizzard Entertainment, and interviewed them to get tips for each character on the game. The video went viral and gained nearly 300,000 views on Facebook.
“People love news format contents because it’s fun and informative. We provide not only the fact but also insight,” Vivian Lee, COO of SMC TV told TechNode.
In South Korea, live streaming developed in 2006, as the first generation of game TV in Korea, AfreecaTV, introduced live streaming options on its website. The content was mostly gameplay and sports, where viewers could comment and share ideas together while watching. People didn’t see it as a way to generate revenue though, rather just a way of passing time.
However, in 2015, MCN (Multi-Channel Network) companies mushroomed in Korea and recruited top content creators from YouTube to their platform. A handful of content creators ranging from game player to cosmetics instructors on YouTube signed contracts with huge MCN companies like Treasure Hunter and Makeus. Seven companies in MCN and the video and broadcasting sector raised a total of $38.3 million USD last year, according to Platum’s Startup Investment Trends In Korea 2015.
With hefty online content covering gaming and beauty sectors, some creators, like Vivian, started producing news content. Vivian sets a clear line between MCN’s content creators and independent content creators that use platforms like Facebook.
“We are a new form of media and it’s different. MCN companies sign contracts with content creators and produce drama and music, run concerts with them and make products out of these creators, just like an entertainment company would with a celebrity,” Ms. Lee says, who previously worked at MCN company Makeus. “However, we are not based on contract model. We only invite influencers and KOLs and make contents together to build up trust, as a media.”
These videos are published on YouTube, Korea’s top portal-based Naver TV Cast, and video recommendation platform Oksusu, and mainly distributed through Facebook.
“You can see Korea’s major news outlets like SBS and KBS’s Facebook page, their news clips do not go over 2,000 views,” Ms. Lee says. “We don’t create news, rather, we curate news in a way that is friendly to our viewers, so that it’s easy to understand.”
In some cases, content creators use South Korean pop culture to create video content. For example, 72Seconds, an online content creator, uses the lives of ordinary Seoulites to create 72 second fictional comedy videos. Each video costs about 10 million KRW ($8,700 USD) to create.
In April, the company received 2 billion KRW ($1.7 million USD) from KIPVC and ES Investor. Now the content creating company runs two Facebook pages including news formatted ’72 Sec Desk’, and ’72 Sec Drama’.
Founded by Chiehwan Sung, a former performance planner, 72 Sec Desk is a satirical news show that makes fun of contemporary culture in Korea. In one video, for example, a Korean guy is arrested for making women fall in love with him by being too nice. Another video shows students at a women’s university with male-phobia.
Videos by 72Seconds are currently on 14 video platforms in China, including Youku Tudou, Tencent, and Meipai. The content creator’s name has been translated into “咸鱼欧巴”, which literally translates to ‘salted fish Oppa’, a reference to a mediocre Korean guy. In addition to developing IP content, 72Seconds also plans to expand their company into a celebrity management company and lifestyle brand to provide physical goods.
After 72Seconds’ videos went viral on Facebook, 72 Sec Drama was broadcasted through Korean TV broadcasting channels like JTBC. The company reported that it made five times more sales in the first half of this year than all of last year by collaborating on content with Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, and car sharing startup Socar.
Rather than new media replacing traditional media, 72Seconds believes that new media and traditional media can collaborate to boost each others’ sales.
“In Korea, lucrative short videos are mostly made by traditional TV stations, and the TV stations will keep on making best use of online, mobile environment,” a spokesperson from 72Seconds said. “We believe New media content should also upstream into TV stations, to collaborate on serving wider audience.”
“Through these new media, traditional media also started to analyze and produce content that might appeal to Millennials,” Vivian Lee says.
Korea’s new media industry is still small. Since Korea’s startup scene is concentrated in Seoul, content creators often meet up to broadcast videos together. Vivian often invites IT journalists, analysts, or famous content creators from another channels to introduce new IT trends. She plans to collaborate on gameplay with top Korean game companies like NCSOFT in the future.
“It’s a small market for now. Content creators in Korea know each other, and help each other. This is how we make the pie bigger,” Ms. Lee says.
Image Credit: 72Seconds, News Reading Lady, and GamePlex