Netflix Will Air an Original Korean Series, the Logical Next Step in Its Global Quest

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A Netflix screen in Korean
A Netflix screen in Korean Credit: Netflix

South Korean dramas are hot internationally, and Netflix is getting in on the trend with an original 12-episode series to debut next year.

"Love Alarm" will be based on a popular South Korean webtoon or web comic series; the show revolves around users of an app that can detect if anyone nearby has feelings for them, a tech creation that "greatly disrupts society," as Netflix said in a statement. The webtoon is the creation of graphic novelist Kye Young Chon, and the series will be produced by Jaemoon Lee of prouction company Hidden Sequence. It will air internationally.

It's logical that California-based Netflix is getting in on Korean dramas, which have been popular for years in Asia and have a growing fan base worldwide. The streaming service has promised 1,000 hours of original content for this year. At the same time, its international usage has shot up, and it needs original content to appeal to an increasingly diverse subscriber base. In the third quarter, Netflix gained 370,000 net U.S. memberships and 3.2 million in other markets.

Netflix went global a year ago when it launched simultaneously in 130 countries, with China a notable exception. Amazon Prime Video also recently launched globally, heating up competition in the sector. Things are evolving fast: Research firm IHS Markit predicts that next year Netflix' international user base will overtake the number of U.S. domestic users.

Netflix obviously can't provide original content for every market or "the costs would be astronomical," said Jonathan Broughton, senior analyst on the IHS home entertainment team. Instead it's targeting key countries with "tentpole titles, one or two really hard-hitting drama series to spread word of mouth on social media and get people talking about the content." South Korea is technogically advanced with wide penetration of fast broadband, and "any drama produced in Korean is applicable to a much wider audience," he said, adding that he expects to see more big titles created for major international markets, such as Japan.

Netflix has already debuted original programming from markets including France ("Marseille") and Brazil ("3%"), while "Narcos" blends English and Spanish and features a Brazilian director and a cast from across Latin America. Last month the company announced an agreement with India's Red Chillies Entertainments, the film production house headed by film star Shah Rukh Khan.

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