“If you like dramas, watch Netflix. If you like movies, watch Watcha Play.” People can hear this comment whenever they are thinking about which OTT service to use. Anyone who has ever watched Netflix will have streamed the drama <13 Reasons Why> or <Stranger Things> all night long and hoped for the next season to come out soon. For those who have Watcha Play, you will have likely spent time viewing movies recommended by the app to the favorite setting. Once you use OTT service, you may be able to use it naturally when you're eating food, going to school, or enjoying a break while watching the content that suits your taste. Before watching dramas and movies on OTT services, let's find out more about OTT services with SMT.
Do you use an OTT service? Me too!
Netflix, Watcha Play, oksusu, POOQ, YouTube Premium, olleh tv, TVING… Most of the Sookmyungians might have heard or are familiar with the services. An OTT service allows unlimited streaming of registered videos after paying a certain usage fee. OTT is an abbreviation for Over The Top, where Top has the meaning of a set-top box. That is, the broadcasting service can be used on a variety of platforms such as PCs, tablet PCs, and smartphones beyond TVs that are dependent on set-top OTT service boxes. OTT services started in the mid and late 2000s when the Internet began to develop, as the service could be used without inconvenience only when Internet speed was guaranteed. In 2005, Google launched Google Video and began a full-fledged OTT service in 2006 when it bought out YouTube. Netflix, which owns a variety of content, started Internet streaming services in 2007. Since then, the development of high-speed Internet has led to universal saturation of OTT services. In the “2018 Audience Behavior Survey” by the Korea Communications Commission in 2019 found that OTT service usage grew from 35% in 2016 to 43% in 2018. This finding shows that OTT services have had a significant impact on modern people's lives.
As of 2019, the number of OTT service platforms has steadily increased. Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, are services expected to be available from the second half of 2019 and WAVVE, a combination of oksusu and POOQ, was released last September. With the increase, the size of the domestic OTT market has changed. According to the Korea Communications Commission's 2018 report, “2018 Broadcasting Market Competition Assessment”, the figure rose to 513.6 billion won in 2018 from 192.6 billion won in 2014. This steady growth can also be seen in the use of OTT services by Sookmyungians. Through the survey by SMT, Sookmyungians usually use Netflix, Watcha Play, YouTube Premium in order. To the question “How much OTT service do you use per week?,” among 70 Sookmyungians, 21.4% of respondents answered more than 5 hours and less than 7 hours. In other words, Sookmyungians use OTT service for 30 minutes to 1 hour every day. This frequency can also be checked through the bulletin board of the school community called ‘NetflixSook (Netflix+Sook of Sookmyung)’ and ‘WatchaSookWatcha (Watcha+Sook of Sookmyung)’. These bulletin boards include content recommendation, review, etc., and more than 300 posted from September 1 to 18. In the SMT survey, 98.6% of the Sookmyungians said they would continue to use OTT services in the future. These results suggest that OTT service has a lot of influence on Sookmyungians.
The beginning of OTT services popularity
OTT services are expected to continue to grow and their usage will continue to attract users in the future. As mentioned before, most OTT services started in the 2000s, but it is only now in 2019 that they are in the spotlight. There are three main reasons why OTT services are loved by people today more so than in the past. First, people enjoy their flexibility. Without time and place limits, every user can access the services whenever and wherever. For busy modern people, OTT services can be a kind of salvation. According to a survey by SMT, about 40% of Sookmyungians said that OTT services are great for people “on the move”. Many Sookmyungians watch TV shows and movies in their own spare time as they go about their busy schedules. In particular, young people's lifestyles require flexibility. Investigating the overall perception of TV viewing habits in 2019, 66.4% of respondents said they don't sit through an entire show on television.1) This figure is up 10% from 52.9% in 2015. In other words, it means viewing programs on OTT services has become more familiar than watching TV. Likewise, people said it is easier to watch an entire program on an OTT service rather than having to tune into a TV channel each week to follow a TV show. Lee Sunju, a 2-year OTT service user said, “I don't tune into a TV show because I prefer to watch sequential episodes right away rather than waiting an entire week for the next episode. It's just too long, so I prefer dramas that are streamed in their entirety on OTT services.” Lee praises OTT services because she is able to watch an entire season of a show at once, unlike dramas on TV that are aired one at a time per week.
Moreover, it is cheaper than the cost of using television. The essential difference between OTT service and TV service is the existence of set-top boxes. However, when using a telecommunication company's IPTV plan, the set-top boxes are available for rental, so it is meaningless to compare the initial costs including it. Therefore, the reporter compared the companies' IPTV plans with the OTT service's plan. At SKT, KT, and U+, the prices for using the basic plan needed to watch TV are 20,900 won, 16,500 won, and 16,390 won each on carrier's website. The average value of it is about 18,000 won. In addition, the most expensive plan requires an average of 35,000 won to be paid. In conclusion, people have to pay 18,000 won or 35,000 won a month to use their TV channels to their preferences. However, OTT services are available at a much lower price than this. Oksusu is priced at 15,400 won and 14,500 won for Netflix, and the average cost is 15,000 won for the most expensive plan. Besides, OTT services can be used more cheaply if several people gather to use a plan. Using the advantage of the fact that multiple people can connect at the same time, people gather to use OTT services cheaper. In fact, the number of such gatherings is significant even within Sookmyung. Students use the OTT plan more cheaply by posting posts like ‘Finding 3 people to use Nexflix with me’. Seo Yejin, who majors Japanese Studies at Sookmyung Women’s University, said, “Four people including me are using the Netflix premium plan. It's 14,500 won, but it's less than 4,000 won a month for four people to use the plan.” This low price is coming as big merit for many people.
Finally, it is because OTT-original content appears. OTT services now air exclusive programs created only for the service provider, and these are not aired on regular TV or released in movie theaters. For example, YouTube Premium showcases exclusive content called ‘YouTube Original’. Some of the contents on there are documentaries such as Ariana Grande's <Dangerous Woman Diaries>. Netflix also releases its exclusive contents for users such as the drama <Kingdom> and the movie <Okja>. Phrases such as “Only on YouTube Original” and “Exclusive to Netflix” are used to promote the OTT services and stimulate public interest in OTT-service exclusive contents. Lee Sunju said, “I didn't expect to be a user for this long. At first, I was just curious about an OTT service exclusive drama, so I started streaming after applying for the initial free experience opportunity. Now, I pay for the service willingly because the episodes come steadily.” Starting to use OTT service because of a curiosity about its original contents, lots of people use OTT service regularly.
Over The Today
OTT services are charming for modern people: time flexibility, cheap price, and exclusive content. These three factors have led many people to become OTT service users. However, some people are starting to voice dissatisfaction with them. TV broadcasting corporations are now frequently being compared to OTT service providers. With the advent of the OTT exclusive programing, experts are claiming the media ecosystem is being destroyed. Shin Hakyoung, a professor in the Department of Japanese Studies at Sookmyung Women's University, said, “In the past, the film industry was concentrated in Chungmuro, but with the advent of multiplexes like CGV and LOTTE CINEMA, the major change resulted. Similarly, the release of exclusive content by Netflix or YouTube is destroying the media's ecosystem. In the past, people felt they needed to go to a cinema to watch a movie or watch one on TV. However, today people can view both dramas and movies on OTT service providers, and some exclusive content can only be seen on an OTT service provider.” It means OTT services result in the destruction of the current ecosystem of the media. In addition, a survey on TV viewing habits, 78.7% of respondents agreed that “More people will watch broadcasted programs on digital devices other than the TV in the future.”2) This finding suggested people are open to accepting the destruction of the media ecosystem, which has come about from the appearance of OTT services. As time goes on, more and more people will use OTT services on their smartphones rather than contents on TV.
A survey on people's consciousness revealed that people are accepting of OTT services naturally. Also, the spread of mobile services and devices, which are at the core of OTT services, has led to an increase in services and users. Consequently, this has put the local broadcasting market and the TV market on alert. However, some are saying there is a chance to turn the crisis into an opportunity. Ahn Jungsang, the head of broadcasting and information communication for the Democratic Party of Korea, said, “Domestic broadcasting market is focused on maintaining the status quo, but there is no competition in terms of content and services. Global OTT services' entry into Korea is a new impetus for its current stagnant broadcasting market. I expect they will be the catalyst for innovation in the broadcasting media industry, which will lead to positive creative changes in the local broadcasting market.”3) Currently, the Korean broadcasting market does not have regulations on the quality of content, but as OTT services abroad thrive in Korea, it is the time to review them and set up guidelines. Also, an official of a civic group said, “Even if the quality of services provided by the paid broadcasting industry improves in Korea, it remains to be seen whether it will meet the standards expected by consumers. The local broadcasting corporations will only be able to compete with OTT service providers in the Netflix era only if they secure their own content competitiveness.”4) He hopes local broadcasting providers will be able to become more self-censorship and provide better quality content through comparisons with foreign content.
As such, the influence of numerous foreign contents is not just the development of the local TV market. Moreover, OTT services have secured diversity in culture. In South Korea, most channels are broadcasted in Korean, but some channels air Western and Asian movies and dramas. Even if one is able to access other country broadcasting channels, it is hard to tune in to the program due to the time difference. By diversifying the content of global OTT service programs, there is an opportunity to experience a variety of cultures. Lee Sunju started, “In the past, most dramas that were aired on TV channels were criminal thriller dramas from the US or the UK, so foreign dramas were reminiscent of dramas in the West. Now, I have changed my thoughts. I have since felt the charm of Chinese dramas through Netflix. After watching the drama, I now search for and read the original novels from which the Chinese dramas were based. In the process, I've learned a lot about Chinese culture.” Like this, OTT services can excite curiosity about one's culture. One Sookmyungian also said, “I use Netflix because I can watch programs that reflect the mood and sentiment abroad, which differ from those in Korea.” Two interviewees added that the content on global OTT services is more culturally diverse and allows them access to a culture that is hard to understand from local broadcasting and fixed-line TV markets. In fact, <3%>, one of Netflix original drama, was shot in Sao Paulo, and it was the first TV series produced in Brazil. Since it features Brazilian content, it was filmed fully in that country. This is an attempt to expand the cultural diversity of programs viewers have access to by fully reflecting on the culture of the production country.
OTT services to continue
A generation that is more familiar with images than texts is called the media generation. This generation searches video sites, not portal sites, and spends most of their time watching videos. They are accustomed to viewing an entire drama series all at once on an OTT service platform rather than watching TV programs on a weekly time broadcasting airing time. OTT services are playing important roles for media generation in their spare time when they exercise, and in the relieving of commute boredom. Changes to life have already begun, and this will not end. Society can expect additional changes including the development of qualitative and quantitative contents.
1) Choi Youngho, “[Trend Monitor] A Changing OTT Service Market, What Do Consumers’ Prefer?”, Mad Times, May 10, 2019
2) Same as 1
3) Jeon Hyuksu, ““Entering of Global OTT Services in South Korea, an Opportunity to Innovate Media Industry””, MEDIAS, October 9, 2018
4) Chae Seongoh, “Pay-Per-View M&A Missed Its ’Golden Time,’ What’s the Emergency Prescription?”, Money S, July 9, 2019
Ahn Ha Yura / Reporter
Kim Lee Hyunmin / Reporter