K-Pop Propels YouTube to Streaming Dominance in Korea, Study Finds

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The powerful appeal of K-pop is a significant contributor to YouTube taking up a position as the dominant streaming video platform in South Korea, a new study has found. Netflix, which has also invested heavily in Korean film and TV, is the leading subscription video service in the country.

South Koreans streamed 169 billion minutes of online video in the second quarter of 2021, according to a quarterly report from consultancy Media Partners Asia which leans on the company’s AMPD Research Platform.

YouTube accounted for 81% of minuted consumption, compared with 13% for all subscription-VOD platforms combined. Live streaming and gaming accounted for 4%, while TikTok took up 2%.

“K-pop is a major force, with official music videos and performances leading traffic, along with user-generated ‘fan cam footage which is widely shared. TikTok, which is eating into YouTube’s share in much of Southeast Asia, has yet to take off in South Korea, with Gen Z opting for local live streaming platform AfreecaTV,” said Media Partners Asia’s executive director Vivek Couto.

The report indicates that the SVOD online video reached 10 million cumulative SVOD subscribers at the end of June, with Netflix, Wavve, and Tving commanding an 80% share. However, a further influx of competition is expected by the end of this year.

“YouTube and Netflix have a strong lead in AVOD and SVOD segments, respectively, while local SVODs led by Wavve, Tving, and Coupang Play are gaining consumption,” said Couto.

Online video content investment is forecast to exceed $1 billion in the current calendar year, with the majority directed towards driving customer acquisition and retention. Netflix remains the most significant investor.

“More than half of Netflix’s streamed minutes in the second quarter of 2021 was driven by Korean content, which it also monetizes beyond Korea to grow its business globally,” Couto said, explain that Netflix accounts for a 5% share of total streaming minutes. “Acquired Korean dramas, including titles from Netflix’s output deals with Studio Dragon and JTBC Studios, have been a hit across age and gender demographics in Korea,” the report said.

Wave, owned by SKT and the three major terrestrial broadcasters (KBS, SBS, and MBC), leverages free-to-air original and Hollywood content, driving 4% of total video streaming. SBS dramas and Wavve originals were breakout hits in the most recent quarter, driving significant consumption.

CJ ENM’s Tving, with a 2% share of minutes, was boosted by Euro 2020 soccer matches and inclusion in Naver’s Plus Membership loyalty scheme. Coupang Play, owned by e-commerce major Coupang, has started to gain traction with Korean variety shows and dramas. In contrast, Watcha Play, leveraging medium and longtail Korean, Japanese, and Hollywood content, commands a smaller but loyal user base. Hollywood movies and series, including racial HBO shows, are a key draw on the platform.

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