Is it the end of the Kdrama World as we know it or will KOCOWA provide us with even more variety, more accurate subtitles, and faster access to the dramas we love? If you have been fretting and worrying about the impact of KOCOWA, then sit back and read. Kdrama Jen is here to answer all of your burning questions about this new streaming site from “The Big Three” drama stations in Korea.
First, WHAT is KOCOWA?
If you are like us, it probably snuck up on you. It seems we started to hear the buzz only a few weeks ago, yet it has been in the works for a while. KOCOWA stands for “Korean Content Wave.” Make sure you spell it correctly. If you transpose the letters, then you will find yourself on a Polish website warning you about a rather nasty disease. Not that any of us know that first hand or anything… So, enough about that, let’s demystify KOCOWA. It is, in essence, a streaming service developed by the three largest broadcasters: KBS, MBC, and SBS and managed by KCP Global in Los Angeles, California. This trio of broadcast networks set this in motion in November, 2016. I think that was definitely news to the Fangirls. We seriously devour every bit of Kdrama information, so the fact that this new service surprised us is…well…surprising!
How much is it?
This new streaming service has a multi-level pricing plan. For $69.99 per year (that’s $70 minus a penny), you can have access to all content without commercials. It includes a discount for two months (which means you save the cost of two months worth of service by paying the yearly rate instead of the monthly rate) and you also get “surprise gifts.” (Please note the number of times the word “surprise” is used.) You can also pay monthly. The monthly price is $6.99 per month. This gives you unlimited access to uploaded content (but, apparently, no surprise gifts). There is also a daily rate of $0.99 per day. Just a word of advice. If you plan to watch a whole drama, unless you can set aside the time for a dramathon, then you are going to need to at least splurge on a full month. For point of reference, 99 cents per day would cost you $361.35 for a year, or $291.36 MORE than a yearly subscription. You can take or leave this advice, but this is Kdrama. One day will never be enough. Don’t fool yourself. There is one other possible option. With a free account you can access “Taste24HR.” This gives you access free of charge for 24 hours after an episode airs in Korea. I am trying this option right now. I had to reprioritize my viewing schedule because after the first 24 hours the episode is locked, but if it is a show you would be anxiously waiting for anyway, then I think this is a viable option. This quick taste within the first day has advertisements at the beginning of the episode, but the ones I tested did not interrupt my drama with ads. You can also watch shows labeled “AVOD” (Advertisement Video on Demand) without an account, but these shows will have advertisements. I wasn’t surprised by this because part of its cute little acronym stands for “advertisement.” It was, however, difficult to determine which ones are free and which ones are locked. I did find “Shopaholic Louis” was one of the “AVOD” dramas. If you haven’t watched it, I definitely recommend it. The price is right! It’s always good to have options.
So, what does KOCOWA have that other sites don’t?
Well, this is an interesting question… It should really be phrased, “What WILL they have that other sites won’t?” Since this is a streaming site offered by the three main broadcasting stations in Korea, then it stands to reason that they will have the newest released shows from MBC, SBS and KBS. This likely means that other sites will either not have these shows or will have more limited access to them. They also claim they will have professionally translated subtitles and shows will be available about 6 hours after they air in Korea. For any of us with the habit of “sub stalking” this sounds like a very impressive turnaround time. That means if you are in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the USA, then a drama that airs in Korea at 10:00 p.m.on August 10th will theoretically be available by 4:00 a.m. Korean time on August 11th. However, with the time difference it would really be available on August 10th in that Pennsylvania town in the USA at 4:00 in the AFTERNOON. What wild sorcery is this? It’s like finding a subway that can travel through time. Right. So, anyway, if they can deliver on this promise, then that will be awesome. But, will it be awesome enough to be your ONLY streaming service?
What will other sites have that KOCOWA likely will NOT have?
So, the real question people want to know is what should they do about their other drama streaming services. Should they cancel them and just subscribe to KOCOWA? Well…that depends. Do you only watch dramas from the Big Three? If so, then KOCOWA is going to work just fine for you. However, if you like TVN, OCN, and JTBC dramas, then you should probably hold off on cancelling your other services. Also, if you have jumped down the rabbit hole of Chinese dramas or Taiwanese dramas, then your other subscription services will still be the place to get your fix. In fact, I predict that these other services will move to expand their offerings in these other areas to compensate for the loss of the other shows. This is just a prediction, but it certainly makes good business sense. In other words, if you are an avid drama watcher, then in order to maintain access to the variety of dramas you currently love, you may find you will need to subscribe to KOCOWA plus another streaming service.
Is it worth it?
So, those are the basics, but what about the details? We know they have an app for IOS and Android, and they say they should have access for Smart TVs within two months: they are starting with Chrome Casting and Apple TV. But, we still have questions! So far, I don’t love the layout or that I have to register devices, so I can’t have a drama playing on my computer and one on my phone. I know that seems greedy, but we are now a drama watching family, so sometimes other family members are watching different dramas at the same time or even the same drama but some downstairs and some upstairs. I also find that I miss the 15 second rewind button and I really want a Roku app! I am willing to keep an open mind, though. I remember when the other streaming sites were just getting started and it took a while for all of the features to fall into place and for everything to run smoothly. Stay tuned for the Fangirls’ review next week as we set out to rate the following features: quality of content (both paid and unpaid), quality of subtitles, turn around time between airing and upload with subs, ability to access on multiple platforms, overall ease of use, and customer service. We will do our best to put this new service through its paces and then report back with the good, the annoying, and any surprises!
If any of our readers have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. We will be happy to answer them, or if we can’t, we will contact the KOCOWA representitive we have been in contact with and try and find the answers.
Until next week…