[Screencap from hugely popular Korean Drama “Boys Over Flowers”]
Here then is part 2 of a multipart full interview transcript with Seung Bak and Suk Park, the founders of the Asian Media streaming site Dramafever. In this section, Seung and Suk talk about surprising audience demographics that reveal that the audience for Korean dramas might be more broad and more diverse in the US than previously imagined by the Broadcast networks.
Part 1 of the interview was posted last week. Keep an eye out for more of the interview in coming weeks as I get around to transcribing the recording.
Xiaochang: How did you go about approaching advertisers about this?
Suk Park: Advertising: it’s tricky. Right now, we’re using a bigger agency because our traffic is still small, being a closed beta. What we’re doing right now is we’re using the revenue from the Ad Network for the beta stage, and when we launch the full site later this year, we’re building direct relationship with the agencies and the advertisers to bring them in. We actually don’t need that many advertisers now because in the first couple of months the traffic won’t be that substantial.
Xiaochang: Along those lines, what do you tell your advertisers your target audience is? Who do you see as being the bulk of dramafever viewers?
Suk Park: That’s a great question because there’s current a couple of ways to analyze our current traffic. The licensing partners really care, as 40% of our audience is non-Asian. It’s a very easy way for individuals, without premium international TV satellite channel, or without having to go to sketchy Koreatown supermarkets to rent these DVDs, to access this type of content. So as a way of introducing their content into mainstream America, it’s a very low-risk offer for them.
Seung Bak: The current state of the market we found for the Korean broadcasters in this country is that their primary audience is basically Koreans, Koreans who are heavily geared toward the first generation. And their distribution, like Suk mentioned, are basically cable channels and supermarket DVD rentals. And here we’re coming out with this interesting concept and telling them that we’re going to take all the stuff they’ve already aired, to start with, and then we’re going to bring and introduce them to all this new potential audience, which is a very exciting prospect for someone like MBC. We’re talking about people who normally don’t consume this content, or if they do consume it it’s through illegal channels which they have no control over whatsoever. So one of the strongest value propositions we bring to the table is that we are broadening and expanding the audience in ways that they couldn’t in the current state. And as Suk just mentioned, we’re looking at the beta registrations and even we were somewhat surprised. We expected a lot of non-Koreans to sign up for this service, but I’ll say a very small minority are Korean-Americans, with the vast majority being other Asians and a lot of non-Asians.
Xiaochang: So the previous distribution channels seem to be limited in that they could only target what they already knew existed as an audience.
Suk Park: Now, mind you, because these are numbers based on a closed beta, there’s also a discrepancy with small numbers when we do any type of analysis. What’s interesting is that we can clearly assume that people who are registered for the beta are enthusiasts for this content. It turns out there was a lot of demand for this product outside of the first-generation Korean demographic, which brings us to what do we tell the advertisers? Our first iteration that was you would be able to brand yourself within the Asian-American population, or the Asian immigrant community in the US. And now we have upgraded to two basic concepts. One is the female audience — over 75% percent of the audience is female. So everybody who wants to attract a female audience, we would be a very good destination for branding and advertising. The second is an audience that we call Asian-content enthusiasts, but it’s an audience that watches international movies and international content outside of what would be classified as mainstream in the US.
Xiaochang: So you’re slightly changing the message to advertisers as you’ve seen a lot more non-Asian audience share come in, or was that the plan form the beginning that you would broaden it?
Suk Park: There was only a certain degree of what we could plan for from the beginning and a certain need for adaptability. We’re now adapting to what the reality is. The audience isn’t 90% or 100% Asian, it’s a wide spectrum of individuals. A lot of them female, that’s for sure, but a wide spectrum of age and race.
Xiaochang: Can I ask how you measure your audience?
Seung Bak: At the most direct level, we know how many people are registering and the information they use to register. Right now, we’re not asking people for a whole lot of info, just their gender and their birth date. But there’s a lot to be learned from the type of feedback they’re giving us and we’re getting a lot of feedback. And you notice that just by looking at names — and this is a very imperfect way of looking at it — but based on our sample, there are a lot of non-Asian last names in there. And even account for people having either been adopted, or interracially married and there’s still an overwhelming number. And we have a facebook group, which has around five hundred members right now, and if you look at the images of people who are leaving comments, we’re seeing caucausian ladies from the midwest. There’s a lot of non-Asian people in the facebook group as far as people writing on our walls. We’re still seeing a lot of Kim’s, Li’s, and Park’s, but they’re definitely in the minority.
[interviewer’s note: this next bit is from a little later in the interview, but I decided to put it here for thematic continuity]
Seung Bak: We knew that there were a lot of Chinese and Filipinos and Asian demographics interested in this, but we really didn’t expect non-Asians to be big fans. We were hoping that we could get a lot of these people to watch this, but we were pretty surprised that even in the initial beta that there were people who you wouldn’t expect to consume this stuff who were actively consuming dramas. And they’re consuming dramas right now in a way where you kind of have to jump through hoops to watch them. Mysoju.com is a good example. I mean, these guys are blatantly ripping content left and right from every major Asian company out there, and if you notice they break stuff off into parts and if you’re watching something, there’s parts missing, the subtitles are weird, the quality is different because one part is on Veoh and another part is on Youtube and so forth. Yet people are still watching it. And there’s another set of people who are basically downloading through bittorrent. You click download before you go to bed and when you wake up you have a new drama to watch and then they go and find some fansub on a different site and figure out how to merge the two. So in spite of all these problems, there’s still a fair number of people who are consuming content this way. So the assumption was, what if you make this site very easy to use, what if you make it very high quality, and what if you just make the overall experience great. You could probably grab that audience and get more, and we’re starting to see some of that even at this very early stage.