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For Luke Kang, president of the Walt Disney Company for the Asia-Pacific region, the growth opportunities for the streaming market in South Korea are clear and abundant.
There’s a reason why global media and entertainment companies are keeping a keen eye on Asia — and South Korea in particular — as one of the most strategic and important regions for their businesses, he argues.
“APAC has three of the top 10 global economies and film markets, including Korea, and four of the top ten digital video markets,” Kang said in a keynote speech at the Asian Content and Film Market of the Busan International Film Festival. “The sheer size, sophistication and potential of many high-growth Asia-Pacific markets is not to be underestimated.”
Kang, who held various senior roles at the former Viacom’s MTV Networks and digital media startups in Silicon Valley and Asia prior to joining Disney, has direct responsibility for the entertainment giant’s media networks and direct-to-consumer businesses, content sales and studio business divisions in Greater China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The entertainment veteran was named president of Disney Korea in 2011 and has since had his responsibilities expanded to oversee the explosive growth of the company’s business throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
The technological and economic fundamentals of the Asia Pacific region suggest unmistakable growth potential for global streaming services, Kang argued. “Total broadband penetration in Asia-Pacific households is five times that of the U.S. today, but the Asia-Pacific region only accounts for 30 percent of VOD subscription market penetration, versus 80 percent for the U.S.,” he explained. “There are clear consumer growth opportunities.”
Disney+, which officially launches in South Korea on Nov. 12 will showcase content by Disney and its stable of brands, including Pixar, ESPN, National Geographic and Marvel Entertainment — along with other original content and series produced in Korea.
With the coronavirus pandemic transforming sectors and the demand for home entertainment growing, Kang said he feels content produced within the Asia-Pacific, in particular, has the opportunity to truly take off on streaming platforms. That is the belief among all of the global streaming companies currently operating, or preparing to start their services in South Korea. Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, recently said at a California tech conference that the company’s hit South Korean series Squid Game, may become the biggest show in Netflix’s history in all languages. Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max are also preparing to launch in Korea soon.
“With the growth of OTT, we’re moving quickly into the space,” Kang said. “How Korean content has evolved into a global phenomenon is a great example of what’s possible in the Asia-Pacific region. One of the key drivers of the growing appeal of Asia-Pacific content is the higher production value of films and series being created today.”
Disney films have always been hugely popular in South Korea. Frozen was the first animated film in South Korea to surpass the 10 million admission mark. Marvel’s Avengers: End Game is the most-watched foreign film ever screened in Korea. The earlier Marvel installment Avengers: Age of Ultron had scenes filmed in Seoul, while car chase scenes from Black Panther were shot in the port city of Busan. At the Busan festival, Disney routinely screens its upcoming prestige titles, with The French Dispatch and Summer of Soul being unveiled this year.
“Here in South Korea, we are not only the no. 1 Hollywood studio, but also one of the largest film distributors,” Kang said. “We are very excited to be part of the development of the local ecosystem and to play an integral role in the shaping of the entertainment in the region — bringing Disney’s unparalleled storytelling, creative excellence and endless entertainment to audiences in South Korea very soon.”
Kang sees successful future entertainment to be “hyper-local, diverse and digital.” Disney is already working with storytellers in South Korea, he added. “As a keen observer and participant of the entertainment industry in Asia, I continue to be impressed by the rapid evolution of our sector and the changing consumer preferences across this region,” Kang concluded.
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