New SARFT Regulations Hit K-drama Licensing Value Hard as Hyde, Jekyll, Me Gets Lowballed

As of January 2015, the news-making discussion of how many times a K-drama has been viewed in a Chinese online streaming site or how much the licensed airing rights per episode sold for has come to a foreseeable end. Thanks to the new SARFT regulations that all overseas shows shown on Chinese streaming sites must (1) be completed airing, (2) fully subbed, and (3) submitted to SARFT for review and approved, the Chinese fans wanting to watch the 2015 K-dramas have so far reverted back to the days of the wild wild west, i.e. fansubbing and pirated episodes that are put up and taken down in a game of chase.

Buzzed about big name prime time dramas like Kill Me Heal Me and Hyde, Jekyll, Me haven’t been licensed yet and the news is out about what a hard hit the new SARFT regulations have on the bottom line. Since official licensing to Chinese streaming sites began about two years ago, Pinocchio retains the crown as selling for the highest per episode price of $280,000 US dollars. In December the bidding was as high as $400,000 per episode for Hyde, Jekyll, Me but the deal never closed due to the SARFT regulations going into effect and now insiders at SBS have revealed that the bidding has dropped to $100,000 per episode after January because having the official license isn’t as profitable if the drama can’t air for many months and in the meantime pirated episodes are out there.

SBS is reportedly unwilling to be low-balled and is holding back selling HJM until it gets a more reasonable offer, but realistically it won’t be anywhere near the anticipated $400,000 bid. That means Pinocchio will be holding onto that crown until and if SARFT changes the regulations to allow for simultaneous live-airings of overseas shows since any delay airing schedule will impact the value of the official license.

Without official licensing, it also means there won’t be viewer counts available anymore since episodes will be uploaded and viewed under the radar and many get taken down shortly thereafter. It’s basically going back what it was like when I started watching K-dramas, the days of digging for raws, subs, whatnot. This will leave You From Another Star the champion as the most online watched K-drama of all time in China and fans will no longer be able to tout how popular a K-drama is over in China based on view count.


New SARFT Regulations Hit K-drama Licensing Value Hard as Hyde, Jekyll, Me Gets Lowballed — 30 Comments

  1. The ratings could also have played a role in the offered amount of money. I am sure they are willing to pay more money if it has high ratings in South Korea. This is not the case for HJM.

    I am not sure if SARFT is going to change the regulation to allow same day airings of shows, since it seems impossible to review the TV series in that short amount of time.

    • Sadly not, it’s not due to the ratings. HJM just started two weeks ago but the bidding amounts are from before that. In early January before the drama aired it had already fallen due to the SARFT regs.

  2. I think this might have a positive effect on the world of Kdramas.

    Korean companies might actually start pre-producing their dramas so they call sell the completed product to China as soon as possible for the highest price. And they might even wait so those dramas air simultaneously on both countries.

    • Possible. Or it could wait it out and hope this regulation is changed soon. The live-airing is such an ingrained K-drama production process I don’t know if an entire industry would adopt a change just to sell its dramas overseas in one country, even if it’s as lucrative as China.

      • I don’t expect live-shooting to be abandoned, but I do hope that they might consider pre-producing more episodes before airing. Perhaps they could try negotiating with SARFT if they could show them half a Drama and satisfy them that it met their criteria. Probably wishful thinking, but it would be nice.

    • When I think about it, this new regulation really mostly sucks for kdrama producers. Viewers will just go back to how it was not long ago, which is the same as how most of us in the western world still view our dramas. It’ll just take some getting used it.

      Losing the chance of selling each drama episode at the highest bid sure sucks. The industry may not change overnight, but it will be something worth considering at the least

    • I also really doubt they will change their whole entire system which they have been using for years and years just to cater to China.

  3. So no more Chinese view count.. now what can we cling to when our bias is in a flop drama lol. SBS should probably take what they can get for the drama. Word of mouth isn’t doing the drama any favors.

  4. Pre-producing a series would be ideal but what would be best is for the industry is to focus on a single episode per week [think Japanese/American dramas]. The live shooting system just doesn’t work.

    Personally I don’t see the Korean industry bowing to the new regulations [regardless of the potential revenue from sales], but I do see them trying to given them something along the lines of what @Stuart suggests they may be more receptive of offering something near real time/same day [after Chestgate and/or shows that are advertisement/product placement heavy it’s kind of understanding].

    As for the fans in general they’ll adapt, they’re like water they’ll find a way to get what they want.

  5. From my limited understanding of China’s politics, and that is what SARF enforces, this is just the beginning. It is a crackdown on foreign culture and it’s exponential influence in China’s popular media.

    If it will be successful remains to be seen. This might also explain the increase in Chinese Korean co- productions. An in with the local companies might increase there chances the Sarf censors.

    But in the immediate future it means less profits and less pay for artists.

    • There will indeed be an increase of Korean-chinese joint production, I agree. But correct me if I am wrong, joint production has yet to yield anything great. It’s more like a fan service to put whatever popular idols/stars the audience wants on the screen without a substantial or even sensical story/plot.
      That’s my impression of joint production projects anyway.

  6. i know this is a bad news for kdrama fans from China. But i m happy that we have this regulation. Why, you ask? because ever since Heirs and YWCFTS sold with high price and were very popular in China, SBS has started casting popular stars for high oversea prices without caring for domestic rating or plot. This news would let SBS refocus on developing plot instead, and it would be a win for us as kdrama fans ( we had so much bad dramas in 2014)

  7. I don’t like PSH but come on that Pinnochio drama is really good and stellar. It has quality and ratings to be sold high… Where as Hyde, Jeckyl and me quality is a bit meh

    • I think the pricing was based on how much the stars in the dramas are liked. Here were not comparing dramas, we’re really comparing star power, and I think Hyun Bin as more star power than all of the cast of Pinocchio 😛

      Anyways I think his luck is really cursed with this one. First you have this SARFT thingy happening cutting their expected revenue. Then you have the original webtoon artist making this whole plagiarism scandal and the fans of Ji Sung and KMHM being protective of the drama and hating on HJM.

      • in korea yes, but I don’t think HB is as big as a star as PSH and LJS in China… We are not in SeGa era

      • In Korea,yes,but in China,no.I don’t think Hyun bin has more star power than LJS not to say both.Pinocchio is currently #1 most popular kdrama in,its been 4yrs since we saw Hyun bin in small screen.we are no longer in SeGa time

      • In korea, HB has more star power yes, but in china no.
        LJS is very popular right now there,,.
        For now, I can say LMH, KSH and now LJS are the 3 big stars in china.

  8. Yes hyunbin star power is unbeatable, but is it the same in China? Does he have more star power than kim soo hyun, lee min ho, and lee jong suk?

    Idk maybe i just still can’t accept that he would do this HJM drama

  9. I am not 100% that there is a definite link between the two, but I have noticed that it takes forever for English-subbed episodes to be released lately. I have no proof and it is just a speculation on my part, but I have a feeling that it is somehow related to that SARFT thing (aka bilingual (Chinese/English) subbers can no longer rely of Chinese subtitles to translate from Korean to English). If this is true, than it’s a major bummer.

    On a plus side I hope it means less shitty dramas that cater to international audience by casting idols and Hallyu stars.

  10. hyun bin’s star power is definately unbeatable in Korea but i wouldnt say in China.Lee min ho,Kim soo hyun,Park shin hye and maybe Lee jong suk.these are stars i’d say their star power are unbeatable now in China since their dramas appeal to the younger they say”nothing lasts forever”.Hyun bin’s has had his time,now its the time for the younger generation.
    even though Hyun bin’s drama is not doing well in rating,i think the buzz is still there.people are the watch it.its already in top 30 most shared drama on only drama there that is still airing).i wonder how kim eun sook DOTS will be.will this affect it or not

  11. Fact: HB is not so popular in China. I say that as a fan. 4 years is a long time in the Entertainment industry & all the younguns are more in demand than him. Forget the new rules: Given what we saw in the 4 eps aired, no way I would pay 400 000$/ep for this show. NO WAY.

  12. True ,. Who would pay such high price for such drama.
    Idk but china fans are really full of desperation… They are flooding the daum reviews with perfect score and dissing KMHM.

    Come on as a fan be objective, you love the actor but too bad if he ended up in a bad drama. Just accept it and move on

  13. i wonder.i mean,its quite too much to paid such an amount for just an ep.its not like we have someone like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Lawerence in it to warrant such an amount..

  14. I won’t pay 400k$/ep for HJM, lmao
    HB has more star power in korea, yes…he is kinda overrated though…but in china, KSH, LMH has more star power and for now LJS takes the crown as the most pupular star there.

  15. It’s a good thing then, because HJM doesn’t deserve the 400k$ thing, lol
    talking the star power, HB is definitely has it in korea, but in china I think no, LJS currently hits that spot after LMH and KSH.

  16. There are two main reasons of imposing these regulations: the boom of Korean dramas in China, which led to overprising and overexposing of the korean stars and (don’t forget) China is a communist country.
    Just 2 years ago one episode of a drama costs 20 000 dollars. After that every new drama costs twice higher and “Pinocchio” was the record-setter with 280 000 per episode. Yes, the Chinese market is huge and can afford itself even 400 000$, but also they gave a priority to the korean dramas over the domestic ones, whith made some official worry about the nwe tendency.
    The politics reasons are also very strong. Many of the korean “values” are not suitable to the Chinese sociaty ( I would say to many sociaties, but this is another topic). The censorship wants to be sure that there will not be any sensible topics as human rights disguised as historical dramas’s plots for example.
    I personally don’t think these regulation will soften or be abandoned. Actually the only way of coping with them id to make coproductions and the Korean entertainment already started to move towards it. Of course the profits should be divided with the Chinese partners, but did they really think the golden shower will last forever?

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