Apple TV Plus Launches in Korea, Increasing Competition in Streaming Market Where Local Content Is King

Apple TV Plus launched in South Korea on Thursday with the premiere of its first original K-drama series, “Dr. Brain.” The sci-fi thriller series is based on a Korean webtoon of the same title and is directed by Kim Ji-woon (“I Saw The Devil” and “A Bittersweet Life”), one of the country’s most preeminent movie makers.

The new service will provide Korean viewers notable originals such as American award-winning comedy drama series, “Ted Lasso” and Jay Carson’s “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. American sci-fi and thriller genres flank the Apple TV Plus launch with “Foundation,” “For All Mankind” and “Servant.”

Also in the pipeline is “Pachinko,” a TV series adaptation of Lee Min Jin’s acclaimed historical novel depicting the heart-wrenching story of a Korean family’s immigration to Japan, with poverty, racism and family loyalty as its central themes. A star-studded cast includes Lee Min Ho (“The King: Eternal Monarch”) and Oscar-winning Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”).

The Korean launch is one of the first in Asia for Apple TV. But it is priced at a deliberately affordable KRW6,500 (US$5.50) per month, reflecting the tech giant’s late entry into a streaming market that is already tight and set to get tighter. Disney Plus will launch in Korea next week.

Korea’s SVOD market is currently headed by Netflix ahead of local platforms Wavve and TVing. In a public address earlier in the day, Netflix’s Asia VP of public policy, Dean Garfield said that Korea is possibly the most competitive streaming market in the world.

“Doctor Brain” and “Pachinko” notwithstanding, Apple’s lack of local content is considered a weakness. Analysts are speculating that in order to play catch up, Apple will seek partnerships with telcos or some of the local streaming operators, such as Wavve or Watcha.

“Partnerships could be really important because Apple TV needs content. Right now it doesn’t have enough compared to Netflix and Disney Plus, so these will be a key element in Apple growing a user base in Korea,” Yves Gueron, professor of economics at Seoul National University told local media.

 

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