So far, 2016 has been marked as a year in which K-dramas are sold at insanely high amounts of money to streaming sites and productions outside of South Korea, especially to China. It started out with Cheese in the Trap having its rights sold for $125,000 USD per episode, earning Total Variety Network (tvN) a grand total of $2 million USD. Eventually, that K-drama's record would be broken by the most popular K-drama of 2016, so far, Descendants of the Sun. It broke records across the board for popularity, sales, and recognition. The price tag Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) put on their series' airing rights was $250,000 USD per episode, which totals $4 million USD, double the money paid for Cheese in the Trap.
Eventually, KBS was even able to top Descendants of the Sun with another one of their K-dramas, Uncontrollably Fond. The price tag for broadcast rights per episode was the same as Descendants of the Sun at $250,000 USD, but given the fact that Uncontrollably Fond was a longer series by four episodes, it made KBS $1 million USD more than Descendants of the Sun.
Now, it seems the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) is in the lead when it comes to selling broadcast rights at a high price. Their currently airing K-drama, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, is the most expensive K-drama sold to any international streaming company. Given China's ban on all things Hallyu, what were reasons the Chinese still bought the K-drama at such a high price?
What is more surprising about the Chinese purchasing the rights to Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is not the price they paid, although that is amazing on its own. Within the last two months, China imposed a ban on "All Things Hallyu," which includes K-dramas. They claimed K-dramas were affecting the everyday lives of Chinese people by endangering their livelihood or even their health. One pregnant Chinese woman miscarried while binge watching Descendants of the Sun. Another woman actually died. Finally, China imposed the ban "for their people."
More than likely, China's ban on Korean entertainment may be their way of chastising South Korea for their Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system implemented to counter the rising threat from the nuclear capabilities of North Korea.
Let's make it clear that both Descendants of the Sun and Uncontrollably Fond are really popular in China. However, their viewership was never enough to surpass the period or historical dramas. Descendants of the Sun was ranked third to God of War, Zhao Yun, a period drama set during the late Eastern Han Dynasty during the early Three Kingdoms Period. As for Uncontrollably Fond, it trails behind Ice Fantasy, the historical fantasy drama that has Victoria Song as the female lead.
Presently, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is in its second week with five episodes aired. Since it is just starting, it is still establishing itself, and the show remains in last place in viewership according to Soompi. KBS found another smash hit this year with Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, which has broken the 20 percent viewership threshold (AGB Nielsen Korea for the nation) in its fifth episode.
Scarlet Heart: Ryeo airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. KST on SBS. For those who do not have access to Korean channels, the K-drama is free to watch, with ads, exclusively on DramaFever. Starting with Episode 3, the latest two episodes will be exclusive for one week for premium members.
[Image via Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]