‘Descendants of the Sun’ ascent? Chinese cash pulls S. Korean producers from slump

(From Yonhap)

By Park Sojung

A growing number of South Korean producers and Chinese sponsors are joining hands, a move that will lift South Korean entertainment out of a slump and provide thousands of Chinese TV networks with quality content.

The intro graphic from the Chinese version of the South Korean variety show "Running Man." (Yonhap)

The intro graphic from the Chinese version of the South Korean variety show “Running Man.” (Yonhap)

For many South Korean producers, viewership of shows at home is no longer the sole yardstick of their performance. In the case of “Running Man,” an SBS variety show, viewership on April 17 was actually fairly low at 7.4 percent, almost half that of “Two Days One Night” on KBS 2TV.

But “Running Man” producers are little concerned because a localized version has been a major hit in China. The show, which is on its second season there, has been watched by some 4 percent of the country’s TV-watching population, with 2 percent viewership considered significant in a nation of 3,000 channels. TV advertising for the show, which airs on Zhejiang TV in the eastern Chinese province, also generated some 30 billion won (US$26 million), a scale unheard of in South Korea.

South Korean actor Song Joong-ki (Yonhap)

South Korean actor Song Joong-ki (Yonhap)

The terrestrial network has not only made money by selling the game show’s format, but it will also continue to take a fraction of what the Chinese network makes in line with the agreement the two sides made, according to SBS. Although the South Korean network denies rumors that “Running Man” accounted for more than half of its 2015 earnings, it acknowledges that the show comprised a “meaningful” proportion.

“We’re not some hole-in-the-wall business, so rumors that a single program generated half of our income is obviously an exaggeration,” an SBS official said. “But it clearly made a meaningful amount of profit.”

“Descendants of the Sun” is another successful case of collaboration between South Korean producers and Chinese sponsors. Producers say the KBS 2TV series would not have been such a huge success if the Chinese video platform iQiyi had not footed 5 billion won for its production. Although the show, starring Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, left much to be desired, iQiyi’s little-strings-attached payment allowed much room for experimentation, they argue. Read more

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