Fan-Subbed Video Site Viki to Produce First Original Drama

Viki Screenshot - H

The Asian drama specialist is producing a bilingual, American-Korean comedy series, due to start shooting in L.A. and Seoul this month.

Fan-subbed global TV site Viki is producing its first original drama, a bilingual comedy that begins filming in the U.S. and South Korea this month, for broadcast in early 2016.

Dramaworld is the story of a Korean drama fanatic who ends up sucked into the action of her favorite show through her smartphone. Clearly aimed at Viki's core audience of Asian drama fans, the dialogue will be half-Korean and half-English.

The show is written by Josh Billig and Chris Martin, with Martin directing the 10 episodes, set to run 20 minutes each.

Viki and Ivy Zhong's Jetavana Entertainment, which will handle Distribution in China, are investing in the drama, with production duties handled by EnterMedia Contents and Third Culture Content.

"We license content from around the world, but they are made specifically for a local audience; we wanted to see if we could take the elements of an Asian drama and take them worldwide," Viki CEO Tammy H. Nam told The Hollywood Reporter.

"This will be international from the start. We have our platform and we know our audience. They're millennials who grew up on YouTube, they have no concept of borders; to this generation this kind of hybrid makes sense in a way that it might not have five or ten years ago," added Nam, who took over as CEO from founder Razmig Hovaghimian in January. 

Hovaghimian is now head of video content at Japanese Internet firm Rakuten, which bought Viki for $200 million in 2013. Viki streams dramas, movies and other content, licensed from around the world and translated by its community of users into up to 160 languages. The company also licenses translated content to other platforms, including Netflix and Hulu.

If the first season of Dramaworld is a success, there are plans for two more in the works, as well as the possibility of more original content, according to Nam. Distribution of Dramaworld to other platforms, including TV networks, is also part of the business model, said Nam, who acknowledged that profitability on the first season is unlikely.