In South Korea, the K-dramas that often get the highest viewership ratings are not just the ones part of free television, but are nationwide. The Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), are known to create and pump out K-dramas that earn double-digit ratings at times. Recent examples for KBS include Producer and Descendants of the Sun while SBS has Yong Pal and Doctors.
However, if South Koreans are able to afford the premium or pay channels offered, they’ll find that some of the best K-dramas don’t have to be free. Another Oh Hae Young on tvN is a prime example of such in which certain episodes were able to break the double-digit threshold. But now, it seems another pay channel, the Orion Cinema Network (OCN), is starting to gain momentum as its currently-airing K-drama, 38 Revenue Collection Unit, is earning high viewership ratings. This actually begs the question, given the fact this K-drama, along with Neighborhood Hero, had one thing in common that might answer why they did so well – Did OCN find their “secret weapon” in K-dramas by featuring Girls’ Generation members?
For starters, it must be noted that the two K-dramas produced by OCN featuring Girls’ Generation members are Neighborhood Hero (also known as Local Hero) and 38 Revenue Collection Unit (also known as 38 Task Force or Squad 38). In the former, Yuri plays Bae Jung Yeon, a writer who also works part-time in the bar now owned by the main lead character, Baek Shi Yoon (Park Shi Hoo). As for the latter, Sooyoung plays Cheon Sung Hee, an officer for the Tax Collection Bureau in which the 38 Revenue Collection Unit works out of.
While Neighborhood Hero was airing, certain episodes earned almost two percent in viewership ratings, a number considered high on pay channels. Overall, the viewership was around 1.5 percent average which is considered really good. 38 Revenue Collection Unit did even better with two episodes earning over three percent in viewership ratings. Now, one can argue that having Girls’ Generation members play main cast roles probably had nothing to do with the ratings themselves, but if one were to look at the other OCN K-drama that aired this year, Vampire Detective, it barely made one percent in viewership. It should also be noted there were no Girls’ Generation members cast in them.
As a result, it is possible that OCN found their “secret weapon” for their K-dramas by casting Girls’ Generation members in certain main cast roles. To be frank, though, such a tactic isn’t new. To this day, Girls’ Generation, better known as So Nyeo Shi Dae (SNSD), is the most popular K-pop girl group in the K-pop industry today. They have lasted almost a decade since their debut back in 2007. As a result of their fame and popularity, they are often cast as guests in variety shows not just because fans would like to see them on such shows, but producers expect a ratings boost. Running Man was accused of constantly getting Girls’ Generation members on their variety show as a means to exploit such a tactic.
Criticisms aside, if a production channel finds a formula, an angle, a concept that works, they’ll stick to it. And if OCN continues to cast Girls’ Generation members, they have some they can call up. Seohyun is just starting to take on more acting gigs and Yoona is considered the most experienced in acting, having more main cast roles over the other members. For now, though, OCN is busy with 38 Revenue Collection Unit which airs on their channel, Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m. KST. For those who do not have access to Korean channels, 38 Revenue Collection Unit can be streamed for free with ads, pending region, at both DramaFever and Viki.
[Image via Orion Cinema Network (OCN) Promotions for 38 Revenue Collection Unit]