How Netflix Plans Total Global Domination, One Korean Drama at a Time

2023-07-13 - Scroll down for original article

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When Netflix’s “Too Hot to Handle,” a tawdry reality dating show with contestants from the United States and Britain, did well in South Korea and Japan, the company decided to make its own shows in the respective countries. But instead of programs replete with sex and hooking up, Netflix’s versions in South Korea (“Singles Inferno”) and Japan (“Terrace House”) were more suited to local sensibilities: only hints of romance with minimal touching or flirting. Storytelling can also differ. Impressions of the first episode of “Physical: 100” were divided by geography. Ms. Kim said she found that in general, American audiences thought the extensive back stories about the contestants slowed the show. Korean audiences liked the back stories because they wanted to know more about the contestants. Ms. Kim recalled how Netflix’s U.S. executives asked her why the first Squid Game contest did not come until the last 20 minutes of the first episode. She was puzzled, because this was fast for Korean audiences — but not fast enough for American sensibilities. In South Korea, the action often does not start until the fourth episode because shows often follow the cadence of a story arc suited to a 16-episode broadcast TV schedule. Ms. Kim said she thought that audiences would tolerate work that defied their expectations or values when it was foreign, but that it must be authentic when it was local. So far, that philosophy has been successful. “Squid Game” proves that. But it also shows the new challenge that awaits Netflix — once something is a global hit, there are global expectations.