‘W’ Finale: Lowest Seoul Capital Viewership Ratings For Last Episode Possibly Suggests Korean Television Is Taking International Audiences More Into Consideration

One of the more popular K-dramas for the summer and autumn season transition for Korean television is the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) suspense crime and romance series, W. Also known as W — Two Worlds, the K-drama marked the 2016 return for Korean star Lee Jong Suk whose last K-drama role (that is now a web drama) was Choi Dal po in Pinocchio opposite another popular K-drama star, actress Park Shin Hye. More importantly, W marked the return of Han Hyo Joo to K-dramas after six years; her last role was back in 2010 as Choi Dong Yi in Dong Yi.

W was very important to Han Hyo Joo because the series marked her return to K-dramas after six years. [Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

Nevertheless, W proved to be a dominant K-drama in its day and time slot. To understand just how big W was, it was leaps and bounds ahead in viewership compared to its competing K-drama Uncontrollably Fond, a series by the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), who did everything in their power to make the show as popular as Descendants of the Sun.

Though W started out with strong viewership, it gradually decreased in it the closer we got to its finale. The question is, why was the series losing said viewership? By the direction W was going and how it ended, it is possible Koreans just did not like it in general. Yet, many international K-drama fans were more than satisfied with the ending. Is it possible that the finale of W signifies a shift in consideration for international viewership?

W was generally a successful K-drama by MBC but it did not do so well with its finale. According to the viewership ratings provided by TNS Media Korea and AGB Nielsen Korea, the finale episode recorded an average of 10.35 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area and 9.95 percent for the nation of South Korea. Pertaining to the Seoul National Capital Area’s viewership rating average, it is the lowest for the entire series too.

In the final episode, Oh Yeon Joo is given a very tough choice to make: Kang Cheol or her father. [Image by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)]

K-drama series finales often see a viewership spike because it is its conclusion, and ending that is supposed to bring closure. Even K-dramas with poor viewership usually experience some sort of spike. The fact that the viewership for W was at the lowest for the finale means Koreans did not like the direction of the plot. [WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!] For those who do not recall what happened, Oh Yeon Joo (Han Hyo Joo) was given a difficult decision to conclude the world of “W.” She would need to choose either her father Oh Sung Moo (Kim Eui Sung) or the love of her life Kang Cheol (Lee Jong Suk). Cheol explains that Yeon Joo’s “happy ending” will only have one or the other. Before all of that, W was generally a more serious K-drama.

Historically, the most popular K-dramas are usually light-hearted and end on a high note for the viewers. The villain often gets what he or she deserves (without losing their life) while the main leads end up together living happily ever after. W is not one of them. Actually, there have been more K-dramas taking a more serious route with their direction even if the series has light-hearted elements. Master: God of Noodles or Please Come Back, Mister for example. Ergo, this answers the question that K-dramas might be taking into consideration international viewership if K-dramas are utilizing more concepts used in international dramas.

Probably the biggest concept Korean television wants to adopt are multiple seasons. There are numerous articles these days on more than one season of certain shows being made. According to Soompi, scriptwriter Kim Eun Hee gave insight on the popular K-drama Signal getting multiple seasons. The same goes with the endless articles on a second season of Descendants of the Sun.

Ultimately, Korean television thinking of international viewers with their K-dramas as of late is just a theory. However, it does make sense for them to put such viewers first especially when the probability of making more money beyond what Korean television ratings can offer seem enticing. Uncontrollably Fond was sold to China for $5 million USD and Scarlet Heart: Ryeo was sold for even more. Also with the latter, NBC Universal, one of the biggest television companies in the world, teamed up with YG Entertainment to produce it.

Only time will tell if Korean television companies will take into account their international viewers over their Korean viewers. For now though, they won’t risk abandoning Korean viewership ratings until investing in international endeavors provides a payoff that is worth more.

As for W, the K-drama is officially concluded but will air a special episode for its fans, which will most likely contain pre-filming readings and bloopers. As for the popular K-drama itself, it can be viewed for free, with ads, exclusively on Viki.

[Featured Image by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)]

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