Kmuse’s Musings: A Kaddict’s Trials When Kdramas Start Becoming Mainstream

Am I the only one who has noticed the changes over the last several months in the Asian drama industry? I am sure I’m not since I have seen variations of this topic discussed on every Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook group I belong to. Sometimes, I myself, am the one to bring up the topic (like now) because I am frustrated and just need to find a way to vent. So what I really want to focus on (as focused as a late night rambling can be) is what has happened to the random kaddict now that the drama world has expanded and become much more mainstream. So come join me as I chat Asian dramas, subbing woes, and whatever else comes to mind.

Hello Netflix

I think we can all point at the major shift in our entertainment world as to when Kocowa and Netflix jumped into the kdrama game. Before then we had Viki and Dramafever which covered around 90% of our subbing needs. Sure, neither of the sites was perfect, but that could be overlooked when it meant getting subs for our kaddiction. But then something happened. The world, which had been in drama ignorance for many many years discovered that Kdramas can make a company money internationally.

Yes, I know that this isn’t exactly a shocker, but when you look at it, many avenues remained closed to subbed content beyond the occasional artistic movie. But now we have billion dollar entertainment industries in China and Korea whose product has become easily attainable (more or less) to the world. The game has changed.

Netflix first began purchasing the rights to various Chinese movies and several Taiwanese and Korean dramas, many of them being web series or idol filled shows with the occasional serious drama thrown into the mix. But this past year we have witnessed a boom in available programming, both Chinese and Korean, on the website. Which is something that I would usually be thrilled about? My introduction to the drama world was Boys Over Flowers on Netflix so I totally understand that kind of venue’s importance. However, Netflix, unlike Viki and Dramafever, has a very different format than the one I prefer. Instead of being able to savor my show the second they pop up, I now find myself having to wait, sometimes months after the drama has completed, for legal subs.

And let me tell you, as a blogger of Asian entertainment, that really sucks. I often write about the here and now programs so when a show airs 5 months past its initial run, there is little interest and I have to choose something current to maintain readership. Have I mentioned how much I hate this? I still have dreams of watching Avenger’s Social Club, but at this point, it is a pipe dream.

Hello Kocowa

But before I get too far into a waiting for Netflix rant, let us change our focus to the new big dog in the drama kennel, KOCOWA. The brainchild of the three main television stations in Korea, KOCOWA decided to pull their content from both Viki and Dramafever in order to create their own streaming site. A streaming site that had all the main three’s content, but for a high price (double what I was paying for either Viki and Dramafever.) To say I was not thrilled would be an understatement, but I decided to embrace the change and subscribe anyway. Only to find out that Viki made a deal with the drama juggernaut to create a premium membership which allowed its users all the content that was available on KOCOWA for a larger sum monthly. Even then, I was like sweet, it is a $1 cheaper to upgrade my Viki pass than it would subscribe to both KOCOWA and Viki. My problems are solved, right? Wrong.

While Viki does indeed have all the KOCOWA content, it is missing one huge thing. The actual KOCOWA subs. Which means that not only am I paying double, but I am paying extra to watch dramas that can go days (and occasionally up to a week) for complete subs. So here I am both significantly poorer and lacking any kind of subbed content to help me forget about my money woes. It is a vicious cycle.

Consequences over lack of content

So, you might think I am whining (which I totally am) and can’t see the bigger picture of having so much more access to available shows. Which, while it might look like there is larger availability at first glance, that is far from the truth. I have found that all these new options have greatly decreased my ability to happily watch my shows. Let me explain…

Before all of these streaming sites were made available I would tell my kbesties and co-bloggers, “let’s watch (insert various drama title and episode #) on this website” We would all head over to the streaming site and enjoy an hour of Asian drama companionship and happiness. But now there are so many hoops to get through before relaxing with a show. First, we have to find out where the drama is airing? Does it actually have legal subs? If we find a place that is legal do we all have access to that specific site? Sure, they might all be under $10 a month per subscription, but when you have to subscribe to 3 or 4 sites, it begins to add up quickly. Not to mention that most of the “legal” sites are now only available to people living in North America so everyone out of that range is out of luck…. at least when it comes to legal content. Then, if there are no legal subs available are we going to check for it on less desirable sites which might have malware? At least half of my closest kbesties won’t watch anywhere that might have dangerous viruses lurking behind every click of the mouse. There are so many reasons why a simple girl’s drama night can’t happen unless we are physically in the same room.

Solutions?

As far as I can see there is really no solution to the current situation. Whichever way I choose, I will be paying higher subscription costs and watching my shows alone. Sadly, this is the way the entertainment industry is and there is no use crying over spilled drama flavored milk. But at least I can take to my blog and complain about the nights where all the must-watch dramas remain unsubbed. Thanks for listening to the ramblings of a sad kaddict who really wanted her Jung Kyoung-Ho fix tonight. Maybe if I pray to the drama gods someone will buy the rights for Prison Playbook and I can forget about the larger problems of the streaming world.

Til my next late night rant,

This is Kmuse signing off

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7 thoughts on “Kmuse’s Musings: A Kaddict’s Trials When Kdramas Start Becoming Mainstream

  1. Ohhh, I’m there with you. When Netflix started to join in the fun, I was jubilant. I was excited about the possibilities. What concerned me then was that new dramas would be more darker and violent as Western dramas tend to be that way. I wasn’t expecting that they will bring the dramas six months after they aired. So, that takes time getting used to.

    What I hate the most about Netflix is the subtitles. It caters to the American people, rather than accepting some of the nuances that kdramas have when it comes to formalities.

    I don’t like Kocowa, they’re greedy. The only good thing about it is tvn, jtbc, and ocn is excluded from that site. I prefer cable dramas over the big 3 networks.

    Argon just now got added to Netflix. So I expect Avengers and the new drama Prison Playbook to show up in Netflix … six months from now.

  2. Argon just popped on my Netflix the other night and it shocked and saddened me, one, seeing Kim Joo Hyuk, who looks like he put in the most amazing (final) performance, and then the actual length of the drama is 8 episodes. That’s rather different.

    I had to lower my subscription payments down to the basic for both DF and Viki for now, so I’m really in the nosebleed section. On Viki I need to wait up to a week for content to unlock, if i get access at all. And here you say that VIki bought the drama rights for Kocowa, but have to do their own subbing. Now I got the full picture.

    DF has me disappointed because they rarely put up any Kdramas of substance, mostly idol stuff, and they’re eating up the Chinese dramas like crazy. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I don’t find the C-dramas as enjoyable as the Korean ones. It depends, I love Hong Kong – cantonese dramas, but there’s no general love for them so they get pushed on the backburner too.

    The whole thing smells like yesterday’s diapers and I’ve taken to the unfavorable sites to watch brand new dramas on time. But up until a few months ago I only used that for the old great dramas the new streamers don’t care to pick up or the movies.

    I totally agree about Netflix and their subs. The characters could be saying a paragraph worth of dialogue, and even I pick up the gist of the conversation, but Netflix only puts one line of translated text.

    Another rant: The other commenter on here mentioned Netflix and all the violent shows they’re picking up. That’s an issue too. And Kmovies are no strangers to cursing. I’m a big girl, but i hate it in general. BUT, I also know the Korean words for them and it’s disheartening when the subtitles write hardcore curse words and the character only called the other guy a “brat.”

    And they’re even sneaking in F-bombs and other stuff in light-hearted web dramas when they’re not in the script at all. Do they think that makes it more appealing to American viewers? Not this one.

    Yep, this is what happens when stuff becomes mainstream. Now I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I find with Asian oriented themes , the craze dies down eventually. I remember a big love-hate for Japan in the 80’s U.S. They were fascinating but also problematic because of U.S. Big business sending all the work overseas. In Pop culture there were definite nods and influences to Japan.

    In the 90’s everybody was fascinated with the Orient – China and Martial Arts. TV shows and movies sprang up left and right about it, with all-American (white) heroes. Jackie Chan shot to fame in the U.S. (well-deserved I must add!) A Korean woman got her own TV series, (All American Girl) and one of the biggest TV crushes of my young life was half Chinese-American Russell Wong on Vanishing Son. They’d started marketing some movies, like the Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon. But eventually it died away.

    I guess my point is that we’re experiencing the Hallyu wave, but at some point waves crash down. Right now it hit America, but Americans are fickle and they’ll move on with the next big thing. I’m not being a Debbie Downer about it, I love that more people are accepting of their shows and music. In fact, I got my mother hooked on Korean movies. She always asks when we’ll watch the next one. She’s not too into the dramas though. But it’s okay, I’m happy to share a bit of my love and interests with her. Even though dramas are more my thing than the Kmovies! LOL.

    So, maybe things on the drama front will go back to normal as interest dies down. But I also foresee a huge market opening up to all of Asia and their content, because Kdrama fans tend to branch out into Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Filipino and Thai as well.

  3. I’m missing more and more dramas lately, particularly good ones from TvN. Right now I’m waiting on 4 drama episodes for Viki to translate. And Falsify still has 4 episodes left untranslated after nearly 2 months! Dramafever is pretty much dead in the water. I won’t go to sites that don’t go through Roku…nearly killed my laptop twice doing that (I don’t like watching it on a laptop anyway). If Hulu was smart (geez, or any of these places) they’d start getting the TvN dramas that Kowcowa, Viki and DF don’t show.

  4. I have a regular viki pass, it lets you view kocowa content after a delay period from the initial airing. Not the best of worlds, but an alternative. The pirates, are frustrating. But the pirates also have shows not being shown on any licenses website. But must switch from one pirate to another because the buffering is sporadic, one buffers like crazy and the other is okay but it is maddening.

  5. Avenger’s social club was subbed my a (great) group of people. But you have to go to the ~illegal~ sites to find it. It’s really good though, and not super dark and revenge-y which I liked. Sad none of the legal sites ever picked up

  6. haha just last week I had a dream about Avenger’s Social Club popping up on Netflix…maybe it’ll come true soon

    I have Viki and DF but will probably also get Kocowa before the year is over as there are so many new dramas that DF is not getting…and I’m not about to pay more money for a Viki pass that doesn’t guarantee quick subs. At least kocowa provides quick subs so I will have to put up with their issues (clunky website/app) and many awkward english phrasing on both their website and social medias.

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