With the popularity of K-pop around the world, not only idol singers are getting the spotlight, but also many of the nation’s various broadcasting programs are gaining huge popularity. Korea has so far imported drama and entertainment programs from various countries such as Japan, China, and U.S. and made them into a new Korean version. However, more and more Korean broadcasts are now being exported overseas. Recently, MBC’s singing contest program ‘King of Mask Singers’ was broadcasted in the U.S. as ‘The Masked Singer’ with a new style, and became a hot topic. Similarly, not only are Korean dramas broadcast with subtitles, but also the whole production process of entertainment programs is exported overseas. This is called ‘format export’. Let us learn more about format export, which is about exporting everything of the program.
1. History of Korean Format Trade
Imports were much more active than exports when the nation’s format business just started. Format exports, which began around 2005 in Korea, grew slightly over the year, but in 2011, the number of formats imported increased rapidly due to the active growth of the format trade market. On the other hand, the number of format exports was significantly lower than that of imports, and exports were made mainly to Southeast Asian countries. Moreover, the trade in dramas was better than entertainment programs. One of the reasons is that while the format of the drama largely consists of scripting and directing, entertainment programs do not have a fully written script, and there are many more factors to consider in exporting, such as location and atmosphere. Format exports of entertainment programs began to increase in 2011. According to the data of KOCCA (Korea Creative Content Agency), domestic broadcasting companies exported 400 to 500 films each year from 2009 to 2011, but in 2012, the number of films exported increased significantly to 1002. Not only did the number of entertainment exports increase sharply, but also the number of countries exported to increased from Southeast Asia to the Netherlands, the United States, Mexico, and more. Currently, the entertainment export market is more active than the drama export market.
2. Successful Cases of Format Export
The background of increased format exports is the success of the export of MBC’s entertainment show ‘Dad, Where Are We Going?’ to China. After the show had broadcast in China, the reaction of the public was so hot that it was also made into a theater version. Its secret to success in China was content that showed the lives of famous celebrities, which previously was rarely shown in television programs. In particular, the program gained more attention since China was strictly protecting the privacy of celebrities at that time. tvN’s entertainment program ‘Grandpas over Flower’ was broadcast under the name ‘Better Late Than Never’ in the U.S., and the reaction was very positive. There are also cases of successful exporting of Korean drama formats. tvN’s drama ‘Misaeng (Incomplete Life)’ was imported by Japan and aired under the title ‘Hope’. Although there were some revisions to the setting and script due to cultural differences, viewers also reacted well to it. As such, the Korean format export market is positively trending.
3. Key to Format Export Is Creativity and Trends
Korean entertainment programs have only recently been exported in earnest. Then why? This is because the creativity of the programs was lacking. In the past, when there was no diversity in content, no country wanted to import the formats of Korean entertainment programs, but recently, fresh and unique forms of programs started to emerge. These programs are attracting attention overseas. As mentioned above, the most popular example is MBC’s entertainment show ‘Dad, Where Are We Going?’. Since the lives of stars were rarely shown on air due to concerns about privacy protection, the content in which they travel with their children has interested many people. The show, which was also very popular in Korea, was successfully broadcast in China. The above mentioned ‘Grandpa over Flowers’, a program of tvN, also has been successfully exported to the U.S. due to the unusual appearance of older actors in entertainment shows. With the thousands of contents in existence, creative programs, which have never been seen anywhere else, can achieve successful format export.
Even so, are the exports of unique programs always brisk? The answer is no. No matter how creative the program is, if it is far from global trends, it will be difficult to export. For instance, a few years ago, there was a time when a contest program became popular all over the world. Not only did the number of survival programs, such as cooking and singing contests increase but they also received much public attention. During this time, Mnet’s program called ‘I Can See Your Voice’, which is very unique in that it added the content of a game show to a general survival show, was successfully exported to Thailand. After all, it means that in order to export formats to foreign countries, there must be a trendy theme before creativity.
4. Difficulties Format Export Is Facing
Format exports are said to be very complex compared to general trade, or exports of completed dramas or entertainment programs. It is very simple to export the complete version of a Korean drama. As soon as the video file is sent, subtitles or dubbing that correspond to the video are made, and it can immediately be broadcast overseas. However, format exports are slightly different. It is about exporting all the production process of a program including scripts, editing techniques, logo design, and ending credits. This is not all. If the format export is made, it will not be broadcast in the exporting countries in the exact same form as Korea due to cultural differences. Localization has become an important process, as cultural differences between countries certainly exist. However, while modifying the script and setting, it could spoil the atmosphere of the original, so it is important to find a proper consensus between the countries.
These days in a globalized world, many countries are seeking opportunities for development by trading various goods and technologies. Now, even ‘format’, the entire production process of broadcast programs, is being traded. CAH believes that the nation’s format exports will experience even greater success in the near future.
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