What's next for the team behind "The Walking Dead"? Skybound Entertainment is working on a show about a family coping with the knowledge that a meteor will pulverize the earth. And it will be in Korean, with a Korean cast.
The pre-apocalyptic drama, "Five Year," which is planned for five seasons, is a sign of how the country's TV culture is reaching across the globe.
Korean dramas, or K-dramas, have been popular for years in Asia and have fans around the world, from the Middle East to Latin America. The shows are romantic and sometimes compared to soap operas, though they're free of sex and violence. A few are being developed as remakes for American TV. For now, their popularity is fueling opportunities for video-on-demand sites that air the dramas outside South Korea with subtitles and for brands that place products in them.
In China, 12 episodes of the Korean Broadcasting System hit "Descendants of the Sun," about the romance between a soldier and a surgeon in wartime, had nearly 1.7 billion views as of April 1 on a platform called iQiyi. That number isn't a typo: The show has more views than China has people. The platform is using the show to lure more subscribers onto its paid VIP service. K-dramas are huge in China, prompting epic binge-watching cases that have reportedly endangered people's health; the Ministry of Public Security has warned that they can be dangerous, alluding to the case of a man who underwent massive plastic surgery to look like a Korean actor.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Warner Bros. just bought DramaFever, an online video platform that airs Korean shows and other content to a global audience.
Viki is another burgeoning power player in the space. Owned by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, the streaming platform is partnering with "The Walking Dead" producers on "Five Year," which will air on both Viki and Korean TV.
That series will start shooting this year; meanwhile, Viki's first original series, "Dramaworld," debuts this month. It's about an American college student who is obsessed with K-dramas and gets sucked into her favorite show.