Korean TV channels quit YouTube

December 7, 2014


By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Two South Korean broadcasting companies have broken a partnership with YouTube and joined with local Web portals to offer video content, as they seek greater control over their online material in an effort to secure new profit sources, industry sources said Sunday.

Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. (MBC) stopped providing free streaming of their regular shows and drama series on the world’s No. 1 video-sharing site, starting Dec. 1.

CJ E&M Corp., the top media conglomerate with 18 cable channels under its wing, is poised to discontinue its uploads starting Monday, the company said. Four other pay channels are also expected to follow suit.

Instead, their video clips are now available on Naver and Daum, the two most popular search engines run by namesake companies Naver Corp. and Daum Kakao Corp.

The move led by SBS came as the broadcasting companies have been struggling to find a new profit source amid a decline in earnings. SBS went in the red in the first half of this year despite the World Cup season, with advertising revenue falling by 10 billion won (US$8.97 million) in the same period, its earnings report showed.

The waning profit mainly stems from a drop in their advertising revenue. A recent report by the Korea Communications Commission, the communications watchdog, showed that broadcasting networks saw their income from commercials fall by an average of 5.1 percent in 2013.

Market watchers cite the shift in media consumption. People visit a video-streaming website or tap a smartphone app to catch up on the drama episode they missed, as opposed to the traditional way of “watching TV at home,” they said.

YouTube has reigned over the local video streaming market, with its share reaching 80 percent as of end-October, according to a report by Seoul-based market tracker Nielson KoreanClick Co.

But its dominance has not helped the broadcasting companies, since the profit-sharing ratio of 4.5:5.5, bound by YouTube’s partnership program contract, was too even for the industry striving to make a turnaround.

Naver and Daum Kakao, whose market shares in video streaming barely stand at around 2 percent, saw their chance and offered concessions to the TV networks.

Under the agreement it signed with Naver and Daum Kakao, each of those TV networks that provide video content gets 90 percent of the profit generated from online and mobile advertising, while the portal operators only get the remaining 10 percent.

“The broadcasting companies wanted a bigger portion, and we agreed without reservation because having them (the video streaming) as our partners was more of a pressing matter for us,” said a spokeswoman at Naver.

The move was spearheaded by Smart Media Rep (SMR), a subsidiary of SBS handling online advertising business for the seven TV networks that quit YouTube.

“Their needs just met at the right place at the right time,” said Jung Yoon-mi, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co.

Naver and Daum also gave the SMR full access to track viewers and control over commercials, which was never part of the contract with YouTube.

“We need to be able to access the raw data to analyze ratings and track them so that we can figure out their use patterns,” said Park Jong-keun, the head of the SMR.

The termination of YouTube’s streaming service only takes effect in Korea, as the bulk of the Korean broadcasters’ advertising revenue sources comes from domestic demand. The broadcasting companies have continued their video uploads for international viewers signing in with a foreign IP address.

Local media reported that the SMR’s shift to Naver and Daum will come as a counterblow to Google Inc., the search engine giant which owns YouTube, and that its monopoly is being challenged by home-grown players.

“It may be true to some extent. Korea has powerful substitutes like Naver and Daum, which one could say (it) made more leeway for the SMR to quit, while other developed countries are more dominated by Google,” Jung said.

YouTube Korea said it does not comment on partnership contracts, only to add that it will work with its goal “to make YouTube a dynamic and rich content platform where local and global users alike can learn more about Korea.”

Park of the SMR spurned media reports that described the SMR and YouTube as David versus Goliath, saying that the profit-sharing issue had always been “a peripheral matter.”

He added that his firm is in talks with YouTube Korea on the technical side of the issue, including the data access, and said he believes there are still chances.

“We understand it’d be a long shot and it is a difficult request, but (I) hope there’ll be a progress.”