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The disruptive forces remaking much of the global entertainment industry have proved surprisingly beneficial to South Korean content market BCWW, which will host its 21st annual edition Sept. 6-10.
The rapidly growing industry confab, whose humble origins stretch back to 2001, has seen virtually every recent industry trend bend to its advantage, whether it’s the rise of episodic series as the preeminent global content category, or the voracious appetite for South Korean dramas and formats among the major streamers, or even the pivot to online trade shows amid the difficulties of holding physical events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BCWW began in Seoul as a platform primarily for Korean studios to showcase their new series and formats to domestic and regional Asian buyers. But in the ensuing years, as South Korea’s highly accomplished screen content has found a growing global audience, the event’s reach and influence has grown apace.
“When we first started, it was the market where only Korean content was introduced, but BCWW has evolved into an international broadcasting content market representing all of Asia — especially since Korea’s production capability and excellent content have become so recognized globally,” says Lee Do Hyoung, general director of the broadcasting division at the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), host and organizer of BCWW.
“We are now working to grow into a global broadcast content market to match the level of a MIPTV, MIPCOM, ATF in Singapore or Hong Kong’s Filmart,” he adds.
For an indication of the value international streamers are placing on Korean content today, look no further than how much capital Netflix, which has a strong head start in the region, is pouring into the category. In February, the streamer held a star-studded event in Seoul where it pledged to spend $500 million on South Korean film and series in 2021 alone. The company also recently further expanded its footprint in Korea by leasing two large studio spaces near Seoul. Disney+ and HBO Max, meanwhile, both are expected to launch in South Korea in the months ahead, which is certain to drive another wave of content spending and audience interest in Korean series.
“The globalization of TV content is intensifying because of the changing media environment, such as the rise of global streaming services and the social environmental changes caused by the pandemic,” notes Lee. Both changes, he says, brought a big boost to BCWW last year, when the event transitioned from a physical event to an all-online convention for the first time.
Organizers went through a trial by fire as they hustled to establish all-new systems to facilitate a fully virtual market, online panel discussions and other support services; and they wondered what turnout would be like with the pandemic raging on. As it turned out, however, the accessibility of the online format significantly boosted attendance among many participants around the world who might have been apprehensive about traveling all the way to South Korea to check out a new market.
“Our usual visitors and participants are from Japan, Taiwan, China and the other Southeast Asian countries,” Lee explains. “However, after we transformed it into an online event we saw a noticeable rise in the number of participants from Europe, North America and other faraway countries.”
This year’s BCWW will feature the usual online market, with complementary Korean translation services available as needed to buyers and sellers holding virtual meetings. The event’s conference and panel discussion series will include sessions featuring a range of industry leaders, including actor/comedian/producer Ken Jeong, on behalf of his production banner DK Ent., Inc.; Clement Schwebig, WarnerMedia’s managing director of India, Southeast Asia and Korea; Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment for Fox Entertainment; Hwang Jin Woo, former president of CJ ENM, now CEO of powerhouse Korean production outfit Something Special; Bill Bost, president of Skydance Television; and Park Hyun, president of Korea’s Studio Dragon, among dozens of others.
Alongside WarnerMedia, executives from Korea’s fast-growing domestic streaming platforms — such as Wavve, Watcha, Tving and Kakao TV — also will participate in the panels, as will other regional Asian leaders, like Southeast Asia’s Viu and Chinese giants iQiyi and Tencent Video.
A highlight of the programming, Lee says, will be the format pitching showcase, where international buyers will be on the look out for the next cross-over Korean hit. “We have many buyers and content providers from an increasing number of countries, so we can say with confidence that Hollywood professionals will be exposed to a lot of quality content, and they might even discover the next Good Doctor or the next The Masked Singer.”
He adds: “Our vision for BCWW is to become a market in which Korea content and any excellent content targeting the international marketplace is traded and promoted effectively — and this goal is especially important at a time when the market itself is becoming more globalized and connected than ever before.”
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