Warner Bros. to Acquire Korean-TV Streaming Service DramaFever

Screengrab
'Cheese in the Trap'

Japan's Softbank previously owned the subscription streaming service for U.S. audiences of Korean dramas.

Warner Bros. has purchased streaming video service DramaFever from Japan's Softbank for an undisclosed price. 

Seven-year-old DramaFever launched as a subscription streaming service for U.S. audiences of Korean dramas. The company, backed in its early days by AMC, has since expanded into international programming in a variety of languages and now offers its service in more than 20 countries. But Korean dramas such as current hit Cheese in the Trap and 2013 sensation My Love From Another Star remain a driving force on the service. 

Softbank acquired DramaFever in 2014 for a reported $100 million but quietly put the streamer up for sale last year. At the time, Softbank was expected to retain a minority stake in the company, but Warner Bros. says it will wholly own the New York-based online video business.  

The Warner Bros. acquisition, which is expected to close during the second quarter, comes as parent company Time Warner has been bulking up on its subscription video offerings and in August 2015 purchased iStreamPlanet, which supplies back-end live streaming technology. Over the last year, Time Warner also has ushered in the launch of HBO's stand-alone streaming service and partnered with Tencent on Chinese movie streaming service Hollywood VIP.

For its part, DramaFever has begun providing streaming technology to partners including horror-themed Shudder, which AMC launched in beta last summer. 

"This is a great fit for Warner Bros.," Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy at Warner Bros. Television Group, said Tuesday in a statement. "With Warner Bros.' resources, we will rapidly enhance and grow the DramaFever channel." 

DramaFever co-founders Seung Bak and Suk Park will continue to oversee the company and will report to Hunegs, who also noted that their team "will move quickly with our own distribution and creative teams to create and build more OTT services." Among those new over-the-top opportunities could be a CW streaming service, which network owners CBS and Warner Bros. were said to be mulling in January of this year as their streaming output deals with Netflix and Hulu near their end. 

DramaFever CEO Bak said that the library of titles and production expertise at Warner Bros. "will provide an unlimited number of opportunities to create the next generation of OTT services and Internet TV brands." 

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