Broadcasting Stations Struggle To Survive From China’s Ban On Korean Cultural Content

Broadcasting stations are going through difficult times. Due to the ongoing influence of China’s ban on Korean cultural content, companies are working to reduce production costs, which involves the cancelation of daily dramas and the use of mid-episode ads.

SBS daily drama “Would You Like a Taste?” (tentative title) was scheduled to go into filming after “Love Is Drop by Drop,” but it suddenly foundered last month. The SBS drama department then went on to discontinue daily dramas all together, explaining, “Issues like the reduction of the advertisement market and an increase in production costs has led us to make more effective use of our resources.” There are rumors that MBC will also discontinue their late night daily dramas starting next year.

The reason broadcasting stations are canceling daily dramas is as follows. While daily dramas get higher viewer ratings compared to miniseries, they don’t make much profit from ads, as each ad is relatively cheap. To make up for this, many broadcasting stations are inserting ads that pop up in the middle of the show because these ads cost more than three times the ads placed in the beginnings and ends of dramas. This kind of ad placement used to be exclusively done by cable channels, but terrestrial networks (KBS, MBC, SBS) are also making use of this strategy, albeit reluctantly. As it may be expected, many viewers complain that the ads break their concentration while watching the drama.

Recently, many broadcasting stations have been airing two 35-minute long episodes on one day, inserting an ad in between each. Combined, they make up a 70-minute long episode like the usual miniseries. It may seem like there’s no difference in making two short episodes versus one long episode, but there is a reason for this. For their VOD (video on demand) service, SBS combines two 35-minute long episodes of miniseries “Suspicious Partner” and charges 1650 won (approximately $1.5) for the combined 70-minute long episode. On the other hand, MBC charges 1100 won (approximately $1) for a 35-minute long episode of miniseries “Ruler: Master of the Mask,” making the price 2200 won (approximately $2) if you were to watch two of those clips to complete the 70-minute long episode. In fact, 1100 won is the price for an episode of a 35-minute long daily drama (even though “Ruler” is a miniseries), but MBC is splitting their miniseries episodes to make more money from their VOD service.

Meanwhile, in response to the deployment of THAAD and the loss that resulted from China’s ban on Korean content, The Corea Drama Production Association held an assembly in March to figure out the different places they could pull financial support from. They decided to utilize 116 billion won (approximately $103 million) from the content production budget of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism for the first half of this year, and they will also look for ways to receive funds from the Small and Medium Business Administration.

What do you think about the current situation?

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