The television series Squid Game, which has recently gained worldwide popularity, is a program produced directly for the well-known video media, Netflix. According to the changes of the times, OTT services have received attention as the new go-to video medium. OTT is an abbreviation of ‘over-the-top,’ in other words, a service that allows people to watch videos anywhere via the Internet. Initially, the service was provided as a cable or satellite broadcasting service through a set-top box, but since the development of the Internet, OTT services can be enjoyed with various devices such as a PC and a smartphone negating the need for a set-top box. OTT services are now also producing videos in addition to streaming existing ones. The aforementioned Squid Game is not produced by terrestrial television companies such as KBS, SBS, or MBC, but is a program invested in, and produced by, Netflix, a company providing an OTT service. Additionally, various OTT services such as TVING and WATCHA are competing to capture consumers. Let’s take a closer look.
< OTT service Market Status in Korea >
According to the ‘2019 OTT Service Trend Report’ released by Mezzo Media in 2019, the size of the domestic OTT service market grew 26.3% annually to 258.7 billion won in 2015, 306.9 billion won in 2016, and 414.9 billion won in 2017. In addition, according to the ‘2019 Broadcasting Media Utilization Behavior Survey’ conducted by the Korea Communications Commission in 2020, the utilization rate of OTT services increased to 36.1% in 2017, 42.7% in 2018, and 52.0% in 2019. This can also be seen in the data of ‘Korea, Japan, and China’s OTT service market sales and subscriber statuses released by the Korea Institute for Information and Communication Policy in October 2021, with about 5.69 million in 2017, 6.92 million in 2018, 7.71 million in 2019, and 11.35 million in 2020. Meanwhile, based on 2020, the number of subscribers to OTT services was 3.83 million on Netflix, 2.1 million on Wavve, 1.78 million on TVING, 1.3 million on Seezn, and 1.08 million on WATCHA.
< Comparison of Features by Type of OTT Service >
As mentioned earlier, based on the number of subscribers by OTT service companies, it is gaining popularity of users in the order of Netflix, Wavve, TVING, Seezn, and WATCHA in Korea. Among the many OTT services, why are these companies so popular among consumers?
First, Netflix is the largest video platform in the world, as well as in Korea. It is currently the world’s top spot OTT service. As this OTT services users from all over the world, it provides various video contents from various countries. In particular, the original contents provided by Netflix, directly participating in productions of video contents, are also playing a major role in Netflix’s popularity. Okja, Kingdom, and Sweet Home, were produced in Korea with Netflix’s support and received great response worldwide. The same is true for Squid Game and Hell, which recently ranked top in the world on Netflix. Netflix’s convenient video service environment, such as subtitles and high-definition videos, serves as a great advantage over competing rivals. In addition, the very affordable subscription options are also a selling point. Depending on the number of simultaneous viewers per contract, the customer can either opt for basic, standard, and premium. Also, Netflix offers a one-month free trial for viewers who would like to try the service before committing to a monthly subscription. Subscriptions can also be cancelled whenever the customer wants to do so.
Wavve is a joint OTT service created by SBS, MBC, KBS and SK Telecom. It was released in September 2019 by combining a video platform called POOQ, previously operated by three terrestrial televisions and a video platform called Oksusu operated by SK Telecom. Wavve is specialized in public airwaves as it is an OTT service created by collaboration with the three terrestrial televisions. In particular, providing TV programs that have enjoyed great popularity a long time ago, such as Infinite Challenge, Stairway to Heaven, and What happened in Bali, is the reason for the high market share in domestic OTT services. In addition, the reasons for the platform’s popularity are that programs on air can be watched immediately, with various Chinese dramas and famous HBO series on offer. However, the disadvantage of this platform is that there is less original content, or types of movies, than other OTT services. Similar to the above-mentioned Netflix, there are three options for the subscription fee with the first month only costing 100 won. Also, because it is affiliated with Bugs and Flo, many consumers can use these music apps and video services at discounted prices.
TVING is an OTT service operated by CJENM. It provides almost all videos of cable channels such as tvN, Mnet, and JTBC, which are not easily found in other services. In particular, consumers can enjoy most of the popular programs, such as Knowing Brothers, New Journey to the West, and Amazing Saturday. In addition, self-produced dramas based on webtoons such as Yumi’s Cells and Itaewon Class are recently gaining great popularity. However, because CJENM makes up the main part of the content, it is difficult to watch the content from other producers on this platform. Similar to the above-mentioned platforms, there are three options for the subscription fee: Basic, Standard, and Premium, and the first month is free. Also, if customers have Naver membership they enjoy the benefit that all programs, except movies, are provided for free.
Seezn is an OTT service launched by KT. It offers various media contents and convenient functions based on existing services by ‘Olleh TV Mobile.’ Consumers frequently use several OTT services simultaneously to access various videos due to each service offering different genres of videos. However, Seezn provides more than 200,000 VODs, including as many as 110 real-time channels, three terrestrial televisions, various general TV series, dramas, and entertainment, allowing many programs to be viewed as this OTT service. In addition, AI curation is provided by hybrid topping engine technology, which analyzes the viewer’s facial expressions after taking pictures to recommend contents that suit the current mood or provide personalized curation according to 20 detailed conditions such as personal use histories, day of the week, and a time slot. In addition, it is gaining popularity among many consumers because it provides a service that enables listening by selecting optimized sound for each genre by providing VSS (Virtual Surround Sound) super sound.
Finally, WATCHA is an OTT service originated from WATCHA PEDIA. It has a customized recommendation system that can recommend the content that suits one’s taste. In addition, unlike the current OTT service, which mostly deals with the latest contents, popular dramas, entertainments, and movies from the 2000s it provides contents from the past which is gaining popularity among classic masterpiece series enthusiasts. Also, it offers popular YouTube content that contains unreleased scenes on YouTube. However, it has the disadvantage of not having various latest programs and self-produced programs.
Jeon Seung-jae, a student majoring Department of the Earth and EnvironmentalScience, who subscribes to Netflix, TVING, and WATCHA, said, “At first, I subscribed to Netflix to watch movies and TV dramas. However, I couldn’t watch all desired programs via one platform, so I usually watch movies and TV dramas through Netflix and WATCHA ,and variety shows through TVING. In particular, the exclusive contents of Netflix and WATCHA are so fun that I use them more often.”
< Recently launched OTT service in Korea; Disney Plus >
On November 12, an OTT service called Disney Plus was officially launched in Korea to mark the second anniversary of its launch in the U.S. Disney Plus offers video content such as Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, which were not seen on existing OTT services. In addition, many Marvel and Disney fans were enthusiastic at the beginning of its launch with a cheaper fare composition than the existing OTT services. This service only costs 9,900 won per month and connects four people simultaneously. However, the number of users has been decreasing due to various problems since its launch.
According to the November 23rd announcement by Mobile Index, a data analysis platform, Disney Plus’s number of active daily users decreased from 590,000 on the 12th to 410,000 on the 19th. The number of users decreased by 180,000 just a week after the service was launched. The main reasons are the uncomfortable app environment, and misinterpreted captions.
With the emergence of OTT services, people are living in an era where they can see desired video content anytime, anywhere. If people choose one or two OTT services that suit their taste and conditions and consume them wisely, they will be able to enjoy a sweet cultural life in their busy daily lives.