Netflix is investing $2.5bn in South Korean entertainment as global media companies step up investment in the country on the back of hits including Squid Game and fitness reality show Physical: 100.
The four-year investment to produce Korean dramas, films and unscripted shows was announced after South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol met Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos in Washington as part of his six-day state visit to the US this week.
Sarandos said the investment, which is double the amount Netflix has spent in South Korea so far, underlines his confidence in the country’s soft power, after the series Squid Game released in September 2021 became one of the US streaming service’s most-watched programmes.
“Their stories are now at the heart of the global cultural zeitgeist,” Sarandos said, citing Squid Game, The Glory and Physical: 100.
South Korea has emerged as a global cultural powerhouse, with Netflix users spending more time watching shows from South Korea than from any country outside the US.
Following the footsteps of Netflix, other global streaming services such as Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus are also increasing investment in South Korea. The country’s exports of content including music, films and video games reached a record high of $12.4bn in 2021, according to the latest government data.
South Korean content has captivated global fans with more than 60 per cent of Netflix viewers watching a programme from the country last year, according to the company’s data.
Yoon welcomed the new investment, saying it “will be a great opportunity for the Korean content industry, creators and Netflix”.
Netflix is set to increase its Asia-Pacific content spending by 15 per cent to $1.9bn this year, according to Singapore-based research group Media Partners Asia. The streamer spends $17bn on content globally each year.
South Korea is Netflix’s top spending destination in Asia, with the streaming platform planning to produce at least 34 original programmes in 2023.
Netflix last year released 29 exclusive Korean dramas, six of which reached the top 10 titles in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Media Partners Asia subsidiary AMPD Research. The Glory, a 16-episode drama produced by Studio Dragon dealing with school violence, was one of Netflix’s 10 most popular series in more than 90 countries in March.
Shares of South Korean entertainment companies gained ground on Tuesday, with Showbox and Studio Dragon up 11.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively, while the benchmark Kospi Composite index fell 1.4 per cent.