The popularity of Asian language movies and TV shows has been on the rise, thanks to the increasing global demand for such content. The surge in demand is largely due to major streaming services like Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max, as well as niche offerings like Rakuten Viki, which focus on Asian entertainment. The share of global demand for Asian language content reached 25% in the first quarter of this year, up from about 15% in the same period in 2020, according to data provider Parrot Analytics. However, the supply of such content still outstrips demand, meaning there is more produced than people are watching, but the gap between the two is narrowing.
The Rise of Korean Content
Korean content, in particular, has gained global recognition, thanks to Netflix’s hit drama “Squid Game” and other Korean series, as well as recent films like “Minari” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. These titles have continuously claimed four spots on Netflix’s global top 10 non-English TV hits. Thriller show “Squid Game” even took the first spot for a spell. As a result, Netflix recently announced that it would roughly double its total investment in Korean content from 2016 to $2.5 billion over the next four years to produce more Korean shows and movies.
Don Kang, Netflix’s vice president of Korean content, said that their primary focus is the local audience in Korea, as they have found that when a show is loved by a Korean audience, it has a high likelihood of being loved by members around the world. While global demand for Korean-language TV shows has increased since early 2020, it has still been outpaced by the supply of content. Meanwhile, that demand has stagnated in comparison to other Asian language TV series, specifically Japanese and Chinese, according to Parrot Analytics.
Increased Investment in Asian Content
Rakuten Viki, a streaming service owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, has also seen a surge in growth in recent years across various Asian language content. The company said its registered user base grew by 27% globally in 2022, leading the streamer to increase its investment in content by 17% that year. While Korean content remains the majority of what is consumed on the service, viewership for Japanese, Chinese, and Thai-language shows increased as well.
Karen Paek, vice president of marketing at Rakuten Viki, said that while the company has been in the Asian entertainment space for more than 10 years, it’s recently seen a growing interest and passion around the world for its shows, which are mostly licensed. The user base for Rakuten Viki has been so passionate that the subtitles for much of its content are generated by a volunteer community around the world.
Other streaming services like Max are also taking a similar approach. Max said it would increase and highlight Asian content during AAPI month. The growing global demand for Asian language content indicates that the trend is here to stay, and streaming services are investing more in Asian content to meet this demand.