Singapore ATF: TVING and Wavve CEOs Talk Regional Expansion Plans, Streaming Challenges in Korea

Singapore ATF: TVING and Wavve CEOs Talk Regional Expansion Plans, Streaming Challenges in Korea

The international ambitions of South Korea’s leading local streaming platforms were given greater clarity during a keynote panel discussion held late last week at Singapore’s Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF).

The growth prospects of regional streamers in the face of fierce competition from global players like Netflix and Disney+ remained a top-of-mind issue at this year’s ATF (Dec. 7-9). The CEOs of Korea’s dominant two platforms — TVING’s Jay Yang and Wavve’s Lee Tae-hyun — were present at the event to share their perspectives on the current streaming landscape in Korea, as well as the future expansion plans for their platforms. 

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Both CEOs were unambiguous about their belief that regional expansion is a necessity and not merely a nice-to-have. “Global penetration is not an option for TVING.; it is a mandate, given the size of the Korea market,” Yang said. However, despite announcing plans to launch in Japan and Taiwan this year, Yang acknowledged that the process has taken longer than expected. “It comes with huge risk and heavy investment. We already declared that we want to go to Asia first. It just takes more time to thoroughly plan and execute great partnerships.”

Similarly, Lee shared that pushing Wavve overseas is a priority. “We believe that global expansion is the major key to success, and therefore we will strive to make a significant contribution to the global expansion through synergy with our Wavve Americas [app].”

Both platforms are eager to expand and capitalize on the surging interest in Korean content and the steady growth of Asia-Pacific’s online video sector. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the industry over the coming five years is forecasted at 8 percent, with the total market reaching $72.7 billion by 2027, according to a report by regional research group Media Partners Asia. 

After TVING grew its paid subscriber base by 204 percent in 2021, Yang said he projects 60 percent growth for TVING in 2022. The homegrown platform, which is controlled by Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM, has strategic partnerships with CJ’s content arms, JTBC, Naver, KT and Paramount to amplify its content and distribution capabilities. The platform also completed its merger with another homegrown Korean platform, Seezn, on Dec. 1.

“I see good synergies with Seezn in content, marketing and platform engineering,” said Yang, about the tie-up. “Merging Seezn’s existing customer base will help TVING scale up faster. Strategic alliance with KT upon this merger will further deliver additional growth by bundling TVING.” 

Through a joint venture between SK Telecom and South Korea’s top three terrestrial broadcasters, rival platform Wavve is the only over-the-top (OTT) service in the country with exclusive access to content produced by broadcasting heavyweights KBS, MBC and SBS. Wavve also has exclusive licensing agreements for HBO, HBO MAX and NBCU content in Korea. 

Lee also emphasized the importance of developing more original content for Wavve, amid fierce competition from Netflix and Disney+ locally. Disney+ launched in South Korea in late-2021 and announced on Nov. 30 this year that it has more than 12 Korean original titles lined up for next year and beyond. 

With Netflix launching an advertising-supported tier in many countries, including South Korea and Japan, domestic platforms are rethinking the delicate balance between different revenue streams, the execs said.

“Both advertising and subscription business model streamers have a similarity in terms of spending on content consumption,” shared Lee, on how Wavve approaches these two revenue models. “It is not necessary to choose one over the other as there are still lots of upside opportunities in the subscription market. We want to create an optimal structure for both customers and advertisement providers.”