4 May 2016

Korea and the IPTV revolution

In recent years Internet Protocol television (IPTV) has become increasingly popular. Millions of TV watchers around the world are adopting the platform in an attempt to reclaim control of content and scheduling. IPTV services provide viewers with non-linear viewing through catch-up TV, streaming and network PVRs. While IPTV has dominated the global TV space, it was not until recently that Korea began to fully integrate the service into its own viewing habits.


Korea Telecom, and similar providers of television in South Korea, had to negotiate difficult regulatory issues and broadcaster usage agreements before the launch of IPTV was permitted in 2009. There were then issues with securing online content, with Korea Telecom struggling to obtain content carriage agreements with national broadcasters of Korean TV.


However, with the introduction of more available content, the impact of IPTV was finally recognised. The number of South Korean IPTV subscribers in the first three months of 2016 reached 1.29 million, showing steady and sustained growth from previous years. In data collected by the Korea IPTV Broadcasting Association, the March figure reflects an impressive increase of 360,000 subscribers from December 2015. Strong growth in Asia – particularly in the maturing markets of China– is pushing adoption of IPTV faster than cable or satellite.


IPTV operators are releasing new packages to invite cord-cutting and improve subscriber numbers further. Since the introduction of IPTV and its growing popularity, Korea has been inundated with new opportunities in its TV and film space. Korean’s film and TV content is closely monitored by laws of censorship. Film makers cannot criticise the government in any aspect, only promote and support it. Film makers cannot freely express creativity, thoughts or ideas - a restriction that leads to the decline of the Korea’s film industry.


However, the production of TV content exclusively for the internet has highlighted loopholes in the strict programme of censorship. Genre films and TV, such as horror, can now evade the censorship process if they are only screened online. "Chinese producers had told me that online platforms are actually independent from the censorship board, only the online platforms perform self-censorship. However, they do get leeway to make films that are never thought possible before," said Jongsuk Thomas Nam, managing director at Network of Asian Fantastic Films.


The Korean TV market was late to adopt IPTV services, a result of difficult regulation and unavailable content. However market persistence has resulted in a thriving community of IPTV users that have access to internet-only content that evades strict censorship and celebrates creativity.

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