Netflix’s $2.5 Billion Investment in Korean Content Attracts Worldwide Viewers


Yanghee, a giant robot doll from the Netflix thriller “Squid Game,” is displayed at Olympic Park in Seoul, South Korea. “The Squid Game” was a global success and remains Netflix’s most watched show of all time.

Chung Sung-joon | Getty Images

Netflix is spending $2.5 billion on Korean content and sees opportunities beyond the Asian region, said Dawn Kang, Netflix’s vice president of Korean content.

Over the next four years, Netflix will invest $2.5 billion in a variety of Korean content Spanning TV series, movies and nonfiction shows, Kang told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.” He said it would double the number of nonfiction shows, from about four in 2022 to at least eight this year, reflecting Korean audience demand for variety shows.

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These include the reality show “Physical 100”, released earlier this year, which featured a hundred contestants battling each other in a series of physically demanding challenges.

He added, “I think it was the first nonfiction show to really get worldwide viewing, which got people really excited.” Korean competition or nonfiction shows typically don’t travel very far outside Korea and the Asia-Pacific region, but Kang said the success of “Physical 100” is “a really positive sign.”

The “Physical 100” topped Netflix’s weekly viewership tally for non-English TV shows for two weeks in 2022. Another Korean variety show that achieved global success in 2022 was the reality dating show “Singles Inferno”, which Kang featured on the global top 10 list.

Expanding to a Global Audience

Kang said he worked on international distribution of Korean shows before joining Netflix in 2018. He noted that distribution was limited to nearby countries such as Japan and other Southeast Asian countries due to language and cultural differences in other regions.

Netflix is ​​investing $2.5 billion to make Korean shows, says VP of Korean content

But Netflix invests in localization through subtitling and dubbing, which removes language as the first barrier to entry and “makes a world of difference,” he said.

Citing the example of the thriller series ‘Squid Game’, Kang said, “You can’t underestimate the different tastes of people around the world.” Netflix had considered changing its title with more context for international audiences, but ultimately settled on its original “catchy title that provokes curiosity,” Kang said.

Netflix’s slate of korean ingredients The announcements so far for this year have also varied from romance to drama, apocalypse as well as social commentary and intrigue to its nonfiction shows.

Kang said Korea has the ability to tell stories that express its unique culture, but resonate with the universal emotions of global audiences. “When a show is loved by Korean audiences, it is very likely to be loved by audiences around the world.”

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