‘The K2’ K-Drama: Was Pushing Series In Edgier Direction A Means For tvN To Promote To Bigger Television Productions Both Domestically And Internationally? [‘The K2’ Special Report Series — Part 5 Of 5]

SPECIAL NOTE: This article is the fourth in a series of special reports dedicated to The K2. All articles in said series are linked below while upcoming articles are given a date and time.

  1. The K2 K-Drama: New tvN Series Starts Out Strong With High Viewership, Might Possibly Dethrone Korea’s Best Pay Channel Series To Date Another Oh Hae Young
  2. The K2 K-Drama: Were tvN Promotions Pairing K2 With Anna A Decoy For Foreshadowed Love Triangle Angle?
  3. The K2 K-Drama: Will The Seriousness And Political Angles In tvN Series Hurt It In The Long Run?
  4. The K2: K-Drama: Initial Reactions From Korean Drama Fans Show Yoona Has Greatly Improved In Her Acting
  5. The K2 K-Drama: Was Pushing Series In Edgier Direction A Means For tvN To Promote To Bigger Television Productions Both Domestically And Internationally?

In just three weeks, Total Variety Network (tvN) K-drama The K2 has relatively become the most-popular series airing on Korean television pertaining to their seasonal dramas. The latest episode which aired on Saturday, October 8, earned the highest viewership out of all aired episodes for both AGB Nielsen Korea and TNS Media Korea. The former recorded an 8.484 percent viewership rating for the Seoul National Capital Area and a 6.636 percent viewership rating for the nation. On the other hand, the latter recorded a 5.6 percent viewership rating for the nation (there is no Seoul National Capital Area rating).

Newer K-drama fans may look at such viewership numbers for The K2 and think it is not doing well at all especially if they compare them to the double-digit viewership ratings achieved by Jealousy Incarnate on the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) or Moonlight Drawn By Clouds on the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS). However, it must be stressed those K-dramas air on free-to-watch Korean channels while tvN is a pay cable channel. Ergo, tvN’s viewership should be relatively lower yet with The K2, it is just two percent away from double-digit ratings just like them.

K2 and Anna
One of the promotional advertising posters for “The K2” features the male lead character, Kim Je Ha (Ji Chang Wook) and second female lead character, Go Anna (Yoona). The K-drama’s synopsis suggests they’ll have some sort of relationship. [Image by Total Variety Network (tvN)]

A lot of K-drama fans believe the high viewership percentage for The K2 is a result of a good mix of high-intensity action and melodrama with light-heartedness and comedy making it the best for both international and domestic (Korean) K-drama fans. However, the action and melodramatic sections were pushed in an edgier direction. True, such K-dramas had car chases and action sequences but not in the way The K2 has done it. Because of this fact, is tvN promoting indirectly through The K2 to bigger television production companies both domestically and internationally?

The idea of tvN promoting to bigger television production companies through The K2 does seem a little far-fetched, but it is probable. Thanks to Hallyu (Korean Wave), Korean entertainment of all kinds, including K-dramas, are far more popular internationally than ever before. As a matter of fact, 2016 has been a massive year for K-dramas. Descendants of the Sun, Uncontrollably Fond, and Scarlet Heart: Ryeo dominated in international viewership, especially in China despite what domestic viewership showed. Along with tvN, the Orion Cinema Network (OCN) saw a major increase in popularity, especially with 38 Task Force.

With increased popularity, it is only natural for K-drama fans to want more out of their series, which means bigger budgets backed by bigger production companies. Enticing them, on the other hand, is a different game but tvN seems to be ready and willing to play through The K2. Within six episodes, they filmed in a foreign location, specifically Spain (episode one and three), had numerous high-action choreographed scenes (all episodes), and had an intricately choreographed car chase scene which includes an explosion. These are details viewers would usually see in high-budget movies (or even high-budget dramas), not in K-dramas.

With all the high-budget movie features mentioned above attributed with the high viewership ratings so far, any big production company, either domestic or international, would love to be a part of it.

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, Moon Lovers, Lee Joon Gi, IU, SBS
“Scarlet Heart: Ryeo” is the third period K-drama to be made through SBS this year. It stars Lee Joon Gi and IU. [Image via Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]

That is clearly the case for Scarlet Heart: Ryeo which has two huge companies producing it: YG Entertainment and NBCUniversal. According to KpopStarz, YG Entertainment will finance and produce the SBS drama and be involved in cross-promotional marketing. As for NBCUniversal, they announced back in September of 2015 they would invest $10 million USD into the series. Take note that NBCUniversal has previously purchased the rights to several K-dramas and other South Korean shows such as Grandpa Over Flowers, but this is the first time they directly invested in a K-drama.

Time will only tell if tvN will succeed in their endeavor of getting bigger companies to produce their K-dramas. To be frank, it will be much harder simply because they are a pay channel network and compared to KBS, SBS, MBC, and other free-to-watch channel networks, they are considered small. But if The K2 truly entices them, it might just be possible.

[Featured Image by Total Variety Network (tvN)]