The Golden Age of Web-Dramas
The Golden Age of Web-Dramas
  • Kim Choi Hyojin
  • 승인 2017.11.08 21:22
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Do you enjoy watching television dramas?  Maybe not all, but many of you have probably watched at least one television drama.  However, the age of television drama watching is slowly fading.  Korean nature, especially society’s lack of patience, is bringing about an end to family TV dates.  Instead, web-dramas have taken over.  They allow viewers to watch the program without a need to keep a certain day or time free.  Anyone with a mobile phone now has access to television dramas at all hours throughout the day without the need for complicated PC-downloading methods or the need to store drama computer files for viewing at a later time.  People can now enjoy small world of drama with the turning on of their phone.  Now is the golden age of web-dramas.


Welcome to the Web-Drama World

With media rapidly developing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy the masses, but the media industry is finding new ways to overcome the difficulty.  One such way it is doing this is by focusing on time and space.  The media industry is capitalizing on the Web.  Web-dramas viewing are now wide-spread in Korea as new drama episodes are continuously uploaded on sites such as Naver and YouTube.  In many cases, a specific web-drama has a fixed number of followers.  Web-dramas deal both with typical TV drama storylines like love entanglements among people in their twenties as well as relationships between people in their thirties; thereby, covering a huge target viewing audience.  Before today’s web-drama popularity, online viewers were intrigued by webtoons and webnovels.  Cartoonists and novelist got people on their computers and interested in this new media viewing form.  Moreover, because viewing was online, accessibility was easy and it became a huge new popular culture in a very short period of time.  With growth and positioning of webtoons and webnovels seeing no signs of slowing down, the media industry recognized that there was a need to take advantage of this new phenomenon and seek new ways to satisfy viewers.  Hence, people needed for video, so the web drama came out. 

PHOTO FROM NAVER TV “The Man Who Can Do, Save!”

Korea’s first web-drama is “The Man Who Can Do, Save!”  It was created by director Yoon Sungho in 2010, and he released it on his internet homepage.  He also used Twitter and Me2day to promote the work.  MBC EVERY1 channel broadcasted it over the internet because its 12 episodes were only 5 to 7 minutes in length.  Three years after its initial release, the web-drama market began to come alive.  With the creation of an environment where mobile users can watch movies on the LTE service, companies started to take part in web-drama market.  In a nutshell, broadcasters started exploiting the web-drama format in order to make consumers impulse to buy before the start of the web-drama episode.  In February 2013, Kyobo Life released the web-drama 'Love in Memory' on Kyobo Life Social Plaza and next story.  After seeing great success, other companies started to jump on board.  Samsung Group released 'Infinite Power' on Naver TV and Samsung Group blog, and Jaws Tteokbokki also circulated 'Spicy Life' on Naver TV and Jaws Tteokbokki Blog.  With each of these resulting in success, other broadcasters, CyDers, Naver TV and so on started making web-dramas.


Web-Drama Charm

PHOTO FROM HERALD POP "Love Playlist"-Paul Kim's "You Know" Sound Track 

Among the many reasons web-dramas gained popularity and have become a huge part of people’s lives is that people could see and feel whenever and wherever they want.  Long gone are the days when families gathering in the sitting room to watch TV together.  Now people turn to web-dramas and even enjoy watching them alone.  What brought about this change?  Online content viewing really began with a moving video 'milk' or a short drama.  Koreans today are obsessed with the need for urgency.  They no longer enjoy sitting down and watching television for an hour.  Also, online, people are free to watch a drama anytime and anywhere and can speed through uneventful part to only watch essential highlights.  There is also a new trend in Korea called the 'snack culture' in which Koreans snatch 10 to 15 minutes of break-time.  This snack culture is being put to use in a variety of places such as broadcasting, fashion, and arts and culture.  With advancements continuing in the smart device industry, the snack culture is expected to grow.  In other words, the biggest advantage of web-dramas is the easy at which they are accessible to watch.  One of the most common viewing times is on the bus or subway when one generally has 10-15 minutes of break-time from regular life.  It is spoken a lot in Korea, but we say soundtrack.
Other great things about web-dramas are external elements of Web drama.  Externality means web-drama soundtracks and the background color of video are great selling points for a web-drama. Television dramas employ famous singers and spend big money to record soundtracks for the dramas. Unlike the soundtracks of TV dramas, web-drama soundtracks makes a different quality without a famous singer thereby minimizing cost.  Kim Honggi, CEO of Space Audi and supervisor for the soundtrack of the web-drama 'Love Playlist', said, "Similar to TV drama soundtracks, the web-drama soundtrack also sparks viewers’ emotions and singers that 20s would like the most."1)  For example, Paul Kim's "You Know" sound track was produced and it got great popularity.  Besides differences in soundtrack, image color affects web-dramas.  Using different image color, viewers are attracted to a web-dramas unique charm.  On web-dramas, the situation and atmosphere of episode scenes vary according to the picture quality, leaving people adoring the charm of a web-drama that can be introduced without restrictions.


Finally, TV viewers are dwindling, and more viewers are watching online streaming of shows via internet websites or mobile apps.  From a survey by Korea Broadcasting Committee on viewer watching 2011 to 2015, the rate of television viewers grew only slightly for the overall organization channels, but for the other three investigated viewing methods, the audience rate was at 60.446% in 2011 but decreased to 47.225% in 2015.  The survey also found that while market share of 3 terrestrial companies was 71.872% in 2011, it dropped to 58.203% in 2015.2)  In addition to these results, the viewer rating of single-digit number dramas grew steadily until 2017.  The results are likely due to changing viewing patterns among the younger generation, those between the ages of 18 and 34, the so-called Millennial Generation.  The Millennial Generation emphasize communication and are interested in bilateral viewing through social network services, rather than one-sided viewing through television.  They often claim they need only view something for a short period of time before they can say with certainty whether they are interested in it or not.  As a result, young people, the new audience of TV entertainment and drama, are moving away from television to mobile streaming.


Top 3 Web-Dramas Loved by Viewers


Now that web-dramas have risen in popularity, there are three more sought after ones.  The first is ‘Love Playlist’ produced by the ‘Playlist’ company.  The company is the maker of the video chat application 'Snow', a subsidiary of Naver.  The company researches teen and people in their twenties, so it is no surprise the web-drama 'Love and Playlist' has captivated the hearts of many young adults.  Season 1 in 2016 has had over 100 million views, and Season 2 ended even more successfully at the end of August of this year with views of 2 to 6 million per episode.3)  The show also had a 1-hour airing on the cable channel ‘JTBC’.  Love Playlist’s episodes are short, running just 5 to 7 minutes in length, but leave a strong impression that attract young adults.  The setting for the web-drama is college, and centers on friendship and love and young adults deal with their anxieties.  Four male and three female characters, all with different underlying life histories, represent typical ordinary college students.  For example, ‘Doyeong’ is constantly burdened by the need to work part-time in order to earn enough money to live.  Junmo, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky guy who never loses courage during times of trial.  At first, Doyeong pushes Junmo away, but over time, the more time she is with him, the less she feels burdened by her life’s circumstances.  She starts to become more like Junmo.  All the characters on the show are deeply concerned about their love life, their friendships with others, and the stress of work or personal matter.  It is important to impose a short but intense impression on a short web drama, and the web drama 'Love Playlist' has made it a success.

PHOTO FROM NAVER TV "An Omniscient Viewpoint of a Secret Crush"

The second big success web-drama is “An Omniscient Viewpoint of a Secret Crush”.  It has progressed Season 3.  It recently also released a special Season 3.5, which was a success on YouTube.  It was the first web-drama requiring payment for viewing.  Season 3.5 was a series of episodes, each 10 minutes in length.  Like the title, the plot is a sensational story about love that unravels the painful idea of unrequited love in light and fresh manner.  The love story in the drama is able to stay clear of common clichés because each season there are new characters and cameo appearances.  After each episode, viewers often utter, “I drank cider (I feel great inward pleasure).” The most captivating aspect of the web-drama is that viewers are able to hear the characters’ thoughts.  Characters on the show do not hear them; they are only audible to viewers of the episodes, so the relationship between viewers and on-screen characters becomes intimate and viewers are easily immersed in the story unlike other web-drama storylines.  The greatest outcome of "Omniscient Viewpoint of Secret Crush” is famous actor Cho Gisung has attained.  He appeared in all episodes from Season 1 to 3.5.  An ordinary out-of-work actor, he dreamt of being a well-renowned actor one day, and his dream came true after being cast in the web-drama.  His notorious fame of acting like the bad guy on the web-drama earned him the nickname "Trashy Gisung".  Actor Cho Gisung said, " Omniscient Viewpoint of a Secret Crush” was the start of sensational web-dramas by incorporating new characters each episode.  Many web-drama fans are thrilled to see that I’m still cast in the web-drama as a regular.”4)  Enjoying his new found fame, Cho hopes the drama continues and he is proud to be remembered as Gisung.


The third success story in terms of web-dramas is 'Ogusil'.  The 72-second TV sensibility drama 'Ogusil' first started in 2015 and continued to be one of the more popular web-drama series until its third season this year.  The main character, a single 30s lady who lives on her own, arouses deep empathy and emotion from viewers.  The storyline is not only about love.  It presents the women concerns and anxieties in the workplace, which are so realistic that the web-drama attracted a combined total of 18 million views in April.  It is the first web-drama to look at women and viewers were drawn to its similarities to real life and the real romances independent working women in Korea face.  In addition, actor Lee Chaeun, who plays the main character ‘Ogusil’, at "The Seoul Web Fest 2017” won the award for Best Female Actor.  Lee said, "I once read the comment: 'I do not know why I find the drama so comforting.  It is just the typical story of ordinary everyday life.’ And that is the key to Ogusil."5)  In addition, Representative of 72-second TV, Sung Jihwan said, “I think its popularity lies in the fact that it is not about the fantasy world, but about the common everyday life of a young lady in her thirties.  That is, people in their twenties and thirties can relate to it.”6)  An increasing number of people desire entertaining dramas that are realistic reflections of the life they live.  For more of these types of storylines, it is important for people to share web-drama with great attention.


For Web-dramas to Continue

PHOTO FROM KOKTV FACEBOOK "Farther than Sadang, Closer than Uijeongbu"

The advent of the web-drama has become obvious due to the development of technology, and web-dramas continues to lead the sympathy with several people such as 'Flat', 'Have we ever met before?', and 'Farther than Sadang, Closer than Uijeongbu'.  Web-drama soundtracks and actors are also growing in popularity, and some believe to make it on the big screen, actors must now make it on web-dramas.  Web-dramas now head the way for new actors to succeed on the big.  The charm of the web-drama is its closeness to reality and its short episodes, for many people can release their stress by seeing similar stories to their own life unfold in just 10-15 minutes rather than sitting for a long time in front of a television.  Web media is powerful.  It has expanded from webtoons to web-novels, so it was natural to expand into web-dramas, and these web-dramas are not just love stories, but represent a more sympathetic and realistic life.  The web-drama will continue for some time and we need a more reasonable attitude of enjoying it.



1) Kim Sohee, “Works That Attract Empathy, Shot Youthful Sensibility”, FN STAR, September 5, 2017
2) Korea Broadcasting Committee, “Korea Broadcasting Committee, Rate of TV channel Viewing for the Last 15 years”, Policy Briefing, April 15, 2016
3) Kim Hyangmi, “Web-Drama 'Love Playlist' Gets Hundreds of Millions of Views. Even the Soundtrack”, Gyeonghyang News, August 1, 2017
4) Lee Minji, “The Abstain Charm of Chic Cho Gisung”, STAR FOCUS, February 1, 2017
5) Han Alum, “A Calm Vibration Conveyed through an Ordinary Story. It Works”, Star News, May 21, 2017
6) Gum Jungyong, “The Success of The 72-second Drama, We Should be Good and Fun.”, Media Today, April 30, 2017

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