DramaFever Calls it Quits
It has been a nice nine years knowing this streaming service. It was one of the first legally offering Korean dramas and they even collaborated with some of the bigger fansub groups to bring us great English subtitles. The original DramaFever was nice and open and reached out to bloggers, etc. for promotions and other things. Then the site started growing. They offered subscriptions and affiliate links for advertising on your site. Then came the infamous partnerships that would lead to it’s downfall.
DramaFever was acquired by Warner Brothers in 2016. Did they grow bigger or become more awesome with this? Sadly, no. Then SBS, MBC, and KBS decided to make their own streaming service called KOCOWA which launched in 2017. Besides their own streaming site, the majority of the big 3’s dramas were only made available via Viki with DramaFever getting them much, much later if at all. But that’s okay as DramaFever was at least able to grab up some bigger dramas from Korean cable.
Does the shut down of DramaFever surprise me? Not at all. It honestly can’t with the way things have been going over the years. While Viki is adding tons of new dramas, DramaFever is only adding a select few each season. I was happy that they were getting Chinese and Taiwanese dramas and Korean cable dramas that weren’t necessarily available on Viki, but they weren’t getting them in spades. I honestly have been wondering how long DramaFever could compete, especially with Netflix adding more content and with the birth of the conglomerate known ad KOCOWA. It was only a matter of time.
What really surprises me is the swiftness and no warning to users/subscribers beyond them no longer updating currently licensed and streaming shows. On Monday, the site still existed. On Tuesday, the site was taken down and replaced with a splash page saying they had to make the hard decision to shutdown and they will be reaching out to subscribers and issuing refunds.
DramaFever hasn’t always been the best when it comes to communication in recent years. They used to be great at reaching out about changes. When they were changing their subscription models, they reached to the original subscribers saying they would offer the same old rate since the subscribers were with them from the beginning. This year, without due notice from the DramaFever team themselves, they increased the original subscription cost that was not supposed to change. I got this notice from PayPal with no explanation from DramaFever. Granted, the change was not enormous, but you should let your customers know what is going on. I was also a bit annoyed that I didn’t get any notice about the affiliate program being shut down. I didn’t make any money from it really, but just the notice that it was happening was nice. I at least heard from YesAsia when their affiliate program was closing.
Variety wrote up a great article talking about how the Korean drama scene’s increased popularity started driving up licensing prices. Again, not surprising. What I was surprised to see is that they blamed Netflix and Amazon for this. Netflix, I get, but Amazon driving up Korean drama pricing? Um…Amazon does not carry that many dramas. It’s main source of Korean drama was seriously a DramaFever channel. Yes, they have Korean dramas outside of that, but not super popular ones. The majority of kdrama content was mostly less popular web dramas. So, I am not sure about Amazon’s effect on this licensing thing.
The article also mentions the merger that happened between Warner Brothers and AT&T. These two are also partnering with HBO to launch a new media service sometime in late 2019. If this is going to happen, is it really not feasible to let your subscribers and loyal users be able to continue enjoying all types of dramas on DramaFever until the launch? That being said, with the complained of how expensive licensing was getting, will this new platform even carry Asian dramas and movies?
Working in the world of publishing and literary magazines, I do see stuff like this often. Magazines and presses have folded with no notice and writers were left in the lurch with books, etc. pending. This has also happened with other Asian media streaming sites. I don’t think MViBO ever officially announced their cessation and just stopped updating the site. TV Taiseng or whatever it was called went bust and subscribers I don’t think ever got refunds.
The sad part is that they had currently airing dramas fans were looking forward to new episodes of. Will these dramas be picked up by Viki or another site? I will try to do some research and scour for other sources, but it looks like drama fans will just be left in the lurch for now.
My final thoughts can be summed up by Eru’s song “I Hate You” featuring Junhyung of Highlight. Check out they lyric translation from Popgasa Kpop Lyrics. I think it’s fitting in this scenario.