Disney+, Company With BTS Titles Ink Global Content Collaboration

The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and HYBE July 11 announced a global content collaboration that will see both companies working to showcase content from South Korea’s music and entertainment industry globally. The agreement includes worldwide distribution of five titles from HYBE, including two exclusive series featuring pop stars BTS that will launch on Disney’s streaming services.

The K-Pop group last month announced it was taking a hiatus from performing. The group subsequently said it would not be taking a break.

“This collaboration represents our creative ambition — to work with content creators and top stars in Asia Pacific,” Jessica Kam-Engle, APAC Head of Content, The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement. “We believe these new titles will captivate consumers worldwide and look forward to introducing more music content on our service.”

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Three of HYBE’s projects coming to Disney’s streaming service include:

BTS: Permission to Dance Onstage — LA: This 4K concert film features BTS’s live performance in Los Angeles’ Sofi Stadium in November 2021. Performing songs “Butter” and “Permission to Dance,” this was the first time in two years since the pandemic that the band met fans in person.

“In the Soop: Friendcation”: An original travel reality show with a star-studded cast including V of BTS, Itaewon Class’ Seo-jun Park, Parasite star Woo-shik Choi, Hyung-sik Park, and Peakboy. The program features the five friends venturing on a surprise trip and enjoying a variety of leisure and fun activities.

“BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star”: This original docu-series follows the journey of BTS. With access to a vast library of music and footage over the past nine years, the series will feature the daily lives, thoughts and plans of BTS members as they prepare for their second chapter. The docu-series will be available exclusively on Disney’s streaming service next year.
 
The strategic collaboration will allow Disney to introduce a series of new titles from HYBE over the next few years, as the entertainment platform continues to produce content based on its music and artists’ IPs.

Korean Crime Thriller ‘Paid in Blood’ Headed to Hi-Yah! Streaming Service June 17, Digital July 26 From Well Go

The Korean crime thriller Paid in Blood debuts June 17 exclusively on the martial arts action streaming service Hi-Yah! before hitting digital only on July 26 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the film, when a powerful crime ring starts construction on the largest casino in all of Asia, the group is challenged by a young, vicious gangster (Jang Hyuk) from Seoul who will stop at nothing to gain power. In a desperate attempt to stop the newcomer’s plot to kill his way to the top, the gang’s leader declares all-out war on the man and his followers.

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Written and directed by Yoon Youngbin, the actioner stars Yoo O-Seong (Beat, Champion, Spy), Jang Hyuk (The Swordsman), Park Seong-geun (Stranger, Into the Ring), Oh Dae-hwan (Deliver Us From Evil, Veteran, The Great Battle), Lee Hyun-kyun (“To All the Guys Who Loved Me”) and Shin Seung-hwan (Vagabond, The Battleship Island, Veteran).

 

Korean Sci-Fi Action Thriller ‘Spiritwalker’ Due on Hi-Yah! Streaming Service March 18, Digital and Disc April 12 From Well Go

The South Korean sci-fi action thriller Spiritwalker will debut exclusively on the martial arts streaming service Hi-Yah! on March 18 before hitting digital, Blu-ray and DVD April 12 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Director Yoon Jae-keun (Heartbeat)​ and award-winning martial arts choreographers Park Young-sik and Chung Seong-Ho (SAG Awards, Best Stunt Ensemble, “Squid Game”) bring to life the story of a man who loses his memory and subsequently wakes up in a new body every 12 hours. He must piece together his identity, all while evading attacks from pursuing agents and dangerous criminals.

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Winner of the Daniel A. Craft award for Excellence in Action Cinema at the 2021 New York Asian Film Festival, Spiritwalker stars former K-pop singer Yoon Kye-Sang (Chocolate, The Outlaws), Park Yong-Woo (Nailed), Lim Ji-Yeon (Obsessed, High Society) and Park Ji-Hwan (The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure).

Bonus features include an all-new English dub and behind-the-scenes content.

The film has been optioned by producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (“Transformers,” “G.I. Joe” series) for a possible Hollywood remake.

 

 

Netflix to Bow More Than 25 New Korean Shows and Movies in 2022

On the heels of the Korean hit “Squid Game,” Netflix has announced more than 25 upcoming Korean shows and movies for 2022. 

Global viewing hours of Netflix Korean shows grew six-fold last year compared with 2019, according to Netflix. To date, “Squid Game” is the biggest show the service has ever launched, reigning as the most-viewed Netflix show in 94 countries at its peak. In fact, 95% of “Squid Game” viewership came from outside Korea.

Two months after “Squid Game,” Netflix launched “Hellbound,” which had a premiere that clocked 43.48 million viewing hours. “Hellbound” was among the Top 10 Netflix shows in 93 countries, and ranked No. 1 in 34 countries, according to the service. Sci-fi mystery “The Silent Sea” also made it to the No. 1 spot on the weekly non-English Top 10 lists for its premiere.

From 2016 to 2021, Netflix launched more than 130 Korean titles.

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Shows for 2022 include:

  • “All of Us Are Dead,” a series in which zombies invade a high school;
  • “Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area,” an adaptation of the popular Spanish series;
  • Seoul Vibe, an action film where the adventures of a special-ops team take place against the backdrop of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games;
  • Juvenile Justice, which follows a judge who dislikes juvenile delinquents, later realizing the troubles children face in society;
  • “Twenty Five, Twenty One,” a drama series about youths who lost their dream to the zeitgeist of 1998;
  • “Forecasting Love and Weather,” a romance drama series about people at the Korea Meteorological Administration;
  • “Thirty Nine,” a romance drama series that follows the friendship, love and life of three friends who are about to turn forty;
  • “Tomorrow,” a series about how a long-time unemployed man accidentally bumps into grim reapers on a special mission and becomes a contract worker at their Crisis Management Team;
  • “Business Proposal,” an office romance drama series based on the globally famous web novel and webtoon;
  • The Sound of Magic, based on the popular webtoon “Annarasumanara,” about a girl and a mysterious magician;
  • Remarriage and Desires, a satire of Korean society;
  • The Accidental Narco (working title), based on real-life events about an ordinary entrepreneur who has no choice but to risk his life in joining the secret mission of government agents to capture a Korean drug lord;
  • The Fabulous, a romance that explores the dreams, love and friendship
    of young people who devote their lives to working in the fashion industry;
  • Love to Hate You, about the war-like relationship between a woman who hates losing to men and a man suspicious of women;
  • Somebody, about a murder case revolving around a social dating app;
  • Black Knight, about an air polluted world in 2071, where people depend on respirator masks to breathe;
  • Love and Leashes, about a different kind of romance between a man with a
    unique taste and a woman who stumbles upon his secret;
  • Yaksha: Ruthless Operations, a spy action film about a merciless man
    known as “Yaksha” who crosses paths with a prosecutor on a special inspection mission in Shenyang, a city in China notorious for espionage;
  • Carter, about an agent suffering from memory loss who is thrown
    into the middle of a mysterious mission;
  • 20th Century Girl, about a women who rekindles a teenage romance;
  • JUNG_E, which portrays a desolated Earth in the 22nd century that is no longer inhabitable due to climate change;
  • “Celeb Five: Behind the Curtain,” an unscripted series;
  • A Model Family, about a man on the brink of bankruptcy and divorce stumbling upon a car loaded with cash; and
  • Glitch, about a girl who attempts to track down her missing boyfriend
    with the help of members of a UFO club.

ViacomCBS Inks Streaming Production/Distribution Deal With South Korea’s CJ ENM

ViacomCBS Dec. 7 announced a partnership with South Korean distributor CJ ENM that includes co-productions for original series and movies, content licensing and distribution across ViacomCBS’s and CJ ENM’s streaming services.

Paramount+ will debut in South Korea in 2022 as an exclusive bundle with TVING, CJ ENM’s streaming service, marking its first entry to the Asian market.

South Korea has become a hit factory for movies and TV series following the Oscar success of Parasite, and recent Netflix original series successes with “Squid Game” and “Hellbound.”

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“Korean entertainment has become a cultural juggernaut with unprecedented demand, and CJ ENM is behind some of the biggest international hits that transcend borders, including Academy Award-winning film Parasite,” Dan Cohen, president of the global distribution group for ViacomCBS, said in a statement.

As part of the pact, Paramount Television Studios and CJ ENM/Studio Dragon will co-develop and co-produce English-language scripted series based on CJ ENM/Studio Dragon’s titles for Paramount+. The two companies will also co-develop and co-finance movies for theatrical and streaming releases with the plan to distribute one theatrical movie a year in various territories.

ViacomCBS and TVING will co-finance new Korean series for global distribution on Paramount+, with the streamer licensing Korean-language series from CJ ENM’s IP library.

Separately, ViacomCBS’s free ad-supported streaming television service Pluto TV will launch a dedicated CJ ENM branded channel on Dec. 14 featuring K-content for U.S. audiences.

“We are focused on the rapid expansion of Paramount+ in markets around the world,” said Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International. “Our strategic partnership with TVING enables us to accelerate Paramount+ subscriber growth while bringing more premium content to audiences in this important market.”

‘Escape From Mogadishu’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 18 From Well Go

The Korean film Escape From Mogadishu will be available on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 18 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on a true story, the film takes place as civil war rages in Mogadishu, Somalia. Rival North and South Korean diplomats are left trapped. With no aid from either government, their only shot at survival may require uniting with bitter adversaries to escape.

The film won six awards (out of 10 nominations) at the 30th Buil Film Awards, including Best Film and Best Screenplay (Ryoo Seung-wan, Ki-cheol Lee). The film received the most nominations of any film this year. In addition, the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards named Ryoo Seung-wan Best Director, plus awarded the film trophies for Best Supporting Actor (Huh Joon-ho), Best Cinematography (Choi Young-hwan) and Best Music (Bang Jun-seok).

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South Korean ISP Wants Netflix to Pay More for Broadband

On the heels of Netflix’s global hit “Squid Game,” a legal battle between the world’s largest subscription streaming operator and a South Korean ISP has reignited the debate over net neutrality laws in the country.

Specifically, SK Broadband, the high-speed internet distributor of SK Telecom in South Korea, recently filed a countersuit against Netflix demanding the streamer pay for increased usage put on the network by its programs such as “Squid Game,” “Kingdom,” “#Alive,” “Itaewon Class,” “Sweet Home” and “D.P.,” among others.

In late June, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed Netflix’s claim and ruled that SK Broadband had the legal right to seek compensation — an amount to be determined through negotiation between the two companies.

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Currently, Netflix doesn’t pay for its 3.8 million subscribers using upwards of 10% of South Korea’s broadband capacity streaming “Squid Game,” the horror-themed dystopian game show that has been watched by more than 142 million Netflix households since launching Sept. 17.

The debate has also ushered in political action within the government regarding tax payments and other expenses foreign companies generate doing business in the country.

In an Oct. 24 blog post, Dean Garfield, VP, global public policy at Netflix, argues SK Broadband’s fiscal demands would stifle Netflix’s ability to make a profit in the region, in addition to the streamer’s ongoing investment in local content production — it values at more than $1 billion.

“‘Squid Game’ is just the beginning,” Garfield wrote. “We appreciate what Koreans have long understood. There is so much more where this story came from. But, unfortunately we have come to a crossroads … where internet gatekeepers could get to decide if the next great Korean story can be watched, and loved, by the world. Why would anyone want that? That is the question.”

To counter claims worldwide that Netflix’s popularity puts strains on local ISP networks, the streamer has long advocated ISPs employ its free open-connect cache servers to help alleviate the strain its subscriber’s usage. It enables Netflix content to be stored as close as possible to subscriber homes, avoids clogging up the internet, saving ISPs upwards of $1.2 billion in related usage costs, according to the streamer.

“The overwhelming majority of our ISP partners around the world use Open Connect, because why wouldn’t they?” writes Garfield. “We deliver it to them for free. It’s proven to reduce at least 95% of network traffic, leaving lots of room for other content to go through.”

Meanwhile, some South Korean lawmakers allege Netflix has shifted much of its localized revenue to a Dutch holding company to reduce its tax burden. Netflix in 2020 generated about 415.4 billion won ($355 million) in revenue, realizing a profit of $7.5 million. Lawmakers contend Netflix reduced its tax burden to 2.1 billion won ($1.8 million) through its offshore accounting maneuver.

Netflix: ‘Squid Game’ Reached 111 Million First-Month Viewers; Tops for Streamer

The South Korean survival series “Squid Game” is now Netflix’s all-time ratings winner.

The streaming pioneer has announced (via social media) that the nine-part series generated 111 million viewers worldwide in its first 28 days on the platform in September — a new record.

Netflix’s previous record holder, “Bridgerton,” generated 82 million viewers in its first month of release on Dec. 25, 2020. Netflix tracks a viewer after 120 seconds of continuous streaming.

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Upon its launch, “Squid Game” — a dystopian game show slasher/horror drama that finds contestants fighting to the death for a chance to make money — was dubbed by Netflix into 30 languages and marketed worldwide.

A similar strategy paid off for other original programs, including Spain’s “Money Heist,” Germany’s “Dark” and France’s “Lupin.”

“Squid Game” was written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk and stars Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung. It was released worldwide Sept. 17.

The series revolves around a contest in which 456 players from all walks of life, but each deeply in debt, compete against each other in various children’s games for a cash purse, with deadly penalties for the losers.

On Oct. 13 the Wall Street Journal reported that the program was blasted on a North Korean propaganda site as “beastly,” and indicative of a South Korean society “where only money matters.”

Korean Epic ‘The Swordsman’ Bows on Digital and Disc Feb. 16

The Korean action film The Swordsman will swing to digital, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 16 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the hybrid of mainstream historical drama and traditional martial arts action, after failing to protect and prevent the downfall of the King, the best swordsman in Joseon leaves and lives in seclusion with his daughter in the mountains. As his eyesight begins to fail due to an old injury, his daughter seeks to find a treatment for him. When she is captured and taken away by a slave trader, the swordsman is forced to raise his sword again in order to save her.

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The Swordsman was directed by Choi Jae-hoon and stars Jang Hyuk as the main character.

The film was released theatrically in South Korea in September. The Swordsman was invited to the 40th annual Hawaii International Film Festival and was picked as the opening film in the 2020 Korean Indonesian Film Festival.

 

‘Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula’ Due on Digital Oct. 27, Disc Nov. 24 From Well Go

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, the follow-up to the South Korean zombie thriller Train to Busan, will come out on digital Oct. 27, in time for Halloween, from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film will subsequently be released in a 4K Ultra Combo Pack and a Blu-ray Disc combo pack, as well as on standard DVD, on Nov. 24.

In director Yeon Sang-ho’s sequel, a former soldier, who previously escaped the diseased wasteland, relives the horror when assigned to a covert operation, returning to the Peninsula on a secret mission. When his team encounters survivors, their lives will depend on whether the best — or worst — of human nature prevails.

The film stars Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-je, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Re and Lee Ye-won.

Bonus content includes a making-of featurette, interviews with cast and crew, and an all-new English dub.

The film will debut on the subscription service Shudder in 2021.

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