K-media Discusses How Descendants of the Sun is the Only Ratings Success Pre-produced K-drama in 2016

K-media is taking stock of 2016 and the results are not exactly promising for the future of pre-producing K-dramas. What was once a rarity such as the mega budget Legend felt like a norm in 2016 with a slew of fully pre-produced K-dramas aimed at being simulcast in China and further recoup costs. I don’t know which of the pre-produced dramas ended up making back its costs and earning a profit, but in terms of domestic Korean ratings there is only one success story in Descendants of the Sun. Kim Eun Sook‘s high profile disaster and medical drama was a ratings hit in Korea and overseas, and remained the only such pre-produced drama despite a slew of other high profile projects subsequently released. Uncontrollably Fond was a middling release, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo an abject failure, Hwarang a new release but slow out of the gate, Cinderella and Four Knights didn’t make a dent, and Entourage ended up being an epic face plant.

The first pre-produced drama to hit the small screen in 2017 will be Lee Young Ae’s comeback work Saimdang: Light’s Diary. Other pre-produced dramas in the works are Joo Won and Oh Yeon Seo in the sageuk version of My Sassy Girl and Park Hae Jin‘s Man to Man. Sci-fi drama CIty of Stars will be fully pre-produced with Hyun Bin currently offered the male lead role.


K-media Discusses How Descendants of the Sun is the Only Ratings Success Pre-produced K-drama in 2016 — 55 Comments

    • So true. Just look at Moon lovers it could’ve been so much better just going by the original but the producers just made terrible decisions all around

  1. i think it will take some time for kdramas to make good pre produced dramas. 2016 is just the beginning, we can’t say its a failed process already. It will take time. Any drama depends on how good the screenwriter writes it, how good the director brings the story to life, how good the editor corrects the finished project and how good the actors breath life into the character. it really doesn’t matter if it was filmed a year ahead or filmed over the weekend.

    • It only matters for the script . If it’ s filmed a year ahead you can’t change it, if it’s filmed over the weekend you can, according to the ratings and the actors doesn’t get what they have signed for.

      • Who said you can’t change it if it’s filmed a year ago? The Chinese media is infamous in changing out characters and refilming scenes before release.

      • This doesn’t make the ratings improve most of the time. It just ruins the original vision of the drama when writers stay hacking away and changing things because of netizen opinion.

      • When they ‘re filming in real time they change a lot of things (the script, importance of the roles ect…)when ratings are no good . When it’s pre produced they can only change the editing wich is also bad ! But preproduced or not what matters is the quality of the script and the crew who is making the project and the timing . Politics , economy, …all that affects the viewers and their mood.

      • So in the end it doesn’t matter if it’s filmed a year ago or over the weekend. It depends on how well the crew produces the final piece. That’s what I was saying.

      • You forgot an important factor in the success of a drama : what viewers want at a given moment. Timing is very important, a lot of productions failed because of that. The same goes in the movies industry. One can’t deny this fact.

      • Time is important but you can’t depend on time to release a film or drama. It’s about chance. No one can assume the audience would react like the day before, who knows what they will think a year from today. Film companies and drama productions just have to take the chance, cast the right characters to match the storyline, get a infamous director/screenwriter. Etc. Who knew Kim Woo Bin’s drama would bomb considering how famous he and Suzy were. In the season they aired, other dramas were more famous because they had better storylines/more interesting couples to ship so the audience sways. You can’t decide to delay a release just because you assume the audience won’t be into it because timing is wrong, you simply don’t know. You spent the productions money to make the drama so you just have to air it since it’s lined up.

    • Also, as a writer you shouldn’t be swayed by netizens if you believe in what you are writing about, if you write what only others want to make them happy, you won’t be happy.

      • See the drama “king of dramas” , writers if they want to work in this field doesn’t allways have the last word. And in this area preproduced dramas are better for writers and actors .

    • King of Dramas is one of my all time favorite k-dramas and so often overlooked. The whole product placement scenario in the first episode…the orange juice ha ha ha. It literally deals with almost every wackadoo k-drama scandal/scenario that anyone has ever heard of. And Siwon is comedy gold.

  2. At first many people had high expectations for pre produced dramas since it means more time for actors to rest = productivity and more time to edit and shoot scenes better. But if you think about it it makes sense why so many PP dramas failed. It comes hand in hand with China’s regulatory law banning live broadcasting of kdramas so many PP dramas are produced with objective of earning China $$ by selling licensing fees to youku, iqiyi etc. Prolly why they place focus on the chinese audience instead of upping their game and telling a good story. DOTS honestly probably only did well because 1. its a kim eun sook drama and her dramas are always hits 2. its a KES drama so they are cheesy and caters to the ajummas and housewives 3. SHK and SJK so it attracts all the younger audiences.

    • This logic doesn’t hold at all. How did any of the dramas which failed above catered to Chinese tastes except for perhaps the casting of Hallyu stars (who are popular domestically anyway)? The reason for pre-production is to get the drama approved for simulcast so they’ll get more licensing money, not to write it in a way such to engage the Chinese viewers more. There’s no incentive in doing it, plus it’s not as if they know what the Chinese audience prefer. There are many reasons why a drama is not well-received, but to push it onto productions focusing on the Chinese market is just ignorance.

  3. I think it because it wasn’t pre-produced so they can have the better editor but a shoot before it aired so it can pass the China streaming regulation,

    DOTS success is because the character are charming and people love them,
    it’s a drama that for some reason make man and woman can watch it without feel shame since it’s light but didn’t have anything wrong, it’s about a nice guy and girl people can all like in the general sense,
    my parents can easily like it cause it less stressful,

    I think hwarang have a good setting places and lots of cameo so it feels that they pre-produced kind of payoff since the detailed in clothes and fighting looking goo but then it just starts so let just wait, PSJ, ARA and PHS is nowhere near SHK relevancy,

    moon lovers and UF are just a bad drama, pre produced or not,
    they have a good shot though, still moon lovers suck badly when they have no cameo and just the character floating around, seriously, it looks fictional and staged,

    the cinderella suffer from the broadcast thing but I think it quite good because everyone expect it to flop hard and they pull like 3-4% in new timwe slot

    entourage loose focus (from few ep I’ve seen), but I cant find the entertainment in the original either so I don’t really know,

  4. ‘while you are sleeping’ going to star LJS and suzy is also going to be pre produced I was told so pre-produced drama is here to stay. The quality had nothing to do with method of production it’s all about the script, more makjang story better the rating and casting big stars also help a lot just look at blue sea, despite mediocre storyline.

  5. The Kdrama industry just needs time to adapt to this new filming system. I’m a big advocate of pre produced dramas because it’s much less stressful for the cast and the extremely hard working crew.

  6. The Korean entertainment media can’t do much of an analysis of pre-produced dramas other than DOTS was a hallyu success and the others didn’t fare well in the local market. They have to have the production financials and licensing financials and ad revenue info. For example (and I’m going by memory) UF did okay locally until W started up but seemed to do respectable business in China. So did it make $$ or end up in the red…I don’t know. I don’t care what people expected it to do…what matters as a matter of business is being able to pay the bills.

    With regard to Moon Lovers, it flopped in Korea but got $400,000 per episode in China and who knows how much for the other licensing agreements. There was a large investment in the drama so did it make enough internationally to make up for local lackluster ratings?

    For the stations to continue to do pre-produced dramas at this juncture, it has to somehow be working for them regardless of the local market or else they wouldn’t do it. It’s all about the $$. Perhaps in 2017 peoples expectations of pre-production will be lowered which is a good thing.

    • That’s possibly because it doesn’t matter to them in terms of money who wins or looses. The target audience is in Korea so if it doesn’t click with the local and prime target audience, they are well within their right to call it a failure. UF atleast did a few things right, a few things wrong but tied it all up in a neat end. I can’t say the same for Moonlovers, this show had a awful run from start to finish with two versions floating around and a source material they couldn’t follow and deliver on. As for Cinderella surprisingly did well for the budget although they initially couldn’t find a broadcaster. Hwarang only has started. Entourage did nothing right.
      Another surprisingly good show was 1% of Something, a remake done right and well received by all.
      I guess bottom line, pre-production and budget can’t elevate poor script, editing or acting. So don’t invest so much unless you have all 3 of them locked.

      • @Missjb
        I am sorry but Suzy is good acting? I agree that UF casts lineup are pretty good but Suzy? She is the main lead, had the most screentimes aside from Kim Woo Bin and her acting is head scratching that I wished she could just stay 5000 clicks away from the camera.

      • generally, compare to other show, the acting is really good. I’m quite surprise Kim Woo Bin act so well in this, he tend to overdue his acting and stiff. And Suzy put a servicable performances, though it will be alot better with a better actress for sure.

      • KWB and Suzy’s good acting? I couldn’t take them seriously for a few episodes I watched. The writer has been relied on good actors in her previous projects but these 2 failed to connect to audiences until the last 2 episodes

      • @Ara, that’s a lie. Kim Woo Bin is Solid throughout the drama. Even most shocking is he is more subtle compare to his peers. compare to several popular show out there, UF acting is ahead of them. compare Goblin and Lotbs, or even W acting with UF which has uneven acting. Well Suzy is also okay. but struggle when the scene require complex emotion. i think she is the weakest one lol

    • If they are reporters of the entertainment business I don’t understand how they cannot care about who wins or loses in terms of money. It’s a business and they are supposed to report on it and that deals with $$. This is especially true to understand the reasoning for continually making pre-produced dramas.

      As far as what you perceive good or bad stories goes, it’s all subjective at the end of the day and sometimes dramas that I think are super cheesy get great ratings so it is what it is. If it was easy to get the script, editing and acting right each time than we wouldn’t have much to talk about I guess. Even pre-produced dramas don’t have a full script when they start filming so it is still a roll of the dice. My main points were follow the $$ and viewers shouldn’t expect pre-produced dramas to be any better than live shoot.

      • If we follow the $, that shows investors securing return on their investment. From a pov of viewer’s taste and preferrence, that hardly tells you anything.

      • Well the merging of art and business is always an interesting thing and the two are stuck walking hand in hand together. My point was the original article – whatever the source was for Koala’s post – was about the media reporting on the business of pre-production (not the quality or lack thereof of the dramas) and maybe it did deal with the financial aspects but what we got was one was a hit and the others underperformed so I’m basically saying I wanted to see more of an analysis. I mean Koala said it herself, she doesn’t know who recouped their $$…I already knew the ratings. I actually find the whole business aspect of the k-drama industry kind of fascinating and sometimes seriously disturbing when hearing about the treatment of both crew and actors.

  7. “Pre-produced” doesn’t actually mean anything. It isn’t any different from any other drama that’s simultaneously being filmed and aired. If you have bad base material, you’ll have a bad drama, no matter your filming schedule. The end.

  8. Pre-produced may have a lot editing,but the quality basic like acting and plot story hard to edit,and some time they ruin that with wrong ost, chessy dialog, and commercial.
    Saimdang: Light’s Diary,seem good drama. I just hope they do not ruin the true history of saimdang alone.

  9. I still have this nagging thought that Moon Lovers took their audience as fools.

    How else can you explain that a pre-produced drama had such terrible editing and the mad last minute scrambles resulting in 2 versions? It made all editing woes of a liveshoot drama look insignificant in comparison.

    Apparently they didn’t think that story or script was important. They hired a writer whose last work was in 2009. Adaptation doesn’t mean you can ignore writing or rank it low. Maybe they weren’t gunning for substance, they just banked on style and visuals. Hence, they got PD Kim Kyu Tae. Rather than directing, he focused more on zooming his camera onto the faces. Presumably
    those close ups would send fans into ecstasy and forget everything else.

    They also expected the ‘King of Saeguk’ to do wonders for the drama. I don’t think it’s Lee Jun Ki’s fault at all. They unfairly burdened him with a lousy script and a character who didn’t make sense all the time. I can almost imagine them telling LJK “All the fans want is to stare at your beautiful face…and just emote like no other. That’s all!” In the same vein, they told IU to open her eyes as big as possible. They were sure fans would fall in love with that pair of shiny pearls framed by fake lashes.

    Throw in a couple of looking young actors, add the essential idol actor wannabes and Voila! the job is done!

    • Excuse you… they pre-produced Moon Lovers just so they can copy & paste IU’s facial expressions in many scenes!!! Moon Lovers should get the best CTRL+C/CTRL+V technique.

      • Hahaha, your comment is gold. The now dreaded trademark IU O.O they actually might’ve used ctrl+c followed by ctrl+v on that.

    • oh Kim Gu Tae is never learn. I just wish somehow he is realizing his random close up technique isn’t what u call telling a story. just a lazy directing and make several audience stay away from his drama

  10. Many Chinese/Hong Kong dramas are always pre-produced but their quality isn’t anything to be desired. I can see pre-produced kdramas are here to stay especially if they want it to enter Chinese mainland market. However, we all know a hit drama isn’t just about pre-production. Everything has to come together, script, editing, acting, chemistry, media-play and the ‘It’ factor. Just one thing missing and it becomes a miss. I’d say script writing is one of the most important factors. Without a good script even a Hallyu star can’t save it.

  11. I don’t know why Police Unit 38 is always being forgotten in these preproduction discussions. That one was 100% preproduced too and it was the highest rated OCN drama in the channel’s entire history.

      • It was initially announced as a fully preproduced show, but after posting my comment I read somewhere that it ended up being only half preproduced for some reason. So I’m not so sure anymore.

  12. Pre-produced drama is not necessarily a guarantee of high quality so its amusing why the koreans take such regard over the term pre-production. It is the same format as movies production and the outcome can be a runaway hit or box office bomb. Actually, pre-production it’s a good practice to overhaul their current sick system of overworking their actors and staffs. Same like pre-produced movies and dramas at other countries, in term of quality, its still down to good script and storyline, solid production team and good actors and cast woth a little sheer of luck to make it a success.

  13. Well in other countries most dramas are preproduced. So i dont thk its really a question of pre, semi or live filming that guarantees sucçess be it domestic ratings or international fame. There were also a lot of mediocre, modest, average to good and excellent dramas thatw erent fully pre produced. Domestic hit Moon embracing the sun had supremely high ratings. You from another star had a lot of international buzz. Both werent preproduce.
    In the end my thinking is the plot, the script, production and the actors and all the unknown combinations that makes a drama a blockbuster.

  14. I think DOTS did good because of SHk and SJK acting and chemistry. They dont look dull. They have this luster. SHK beauty is unbeatable from from the beginning to end. Even if the writing and directing is good if the OTP has no chemistry then its nothing.

  15. Signal? Isnt it a pre produce project too? CITT?? Well, even citt had some problems around ep 13-16 but then the rating and the buzz were high tho.

    • I don’t know about Signal….I don’t think it was because I remember k-netz having issues with the way the lead guy was talking, and the production was addressing it. CITT was 50% pre-produced so it was half done when it started airing.

  16. Looking forward to Saimdang since I believe this could be good in both – filming quality AND writing.

    DotS looked good but was weak writing-wise. It was successful due to the casting of popular actors. Making sure it won’t flop.

    The ratings prove nothing. There aren’t really many dramas with high ratings which are actually good plot and character wise.

  17. Preproduced dramas still end up doing better for the production company though since they can sell it before it airs. There are many drama failures every year anyway. Consider how many normal dramas fail every year, a few pre-produced dramas failing isn’t a huge deal in the long run. The only thing is that it doesn’t guarantee success, but nothing does.

  18. It’s not the fact that the dramas are pre-produced that they’re failing (there have been plenty, plenty of live shoot dramas that have flopped hard this year) it’s the script and acting. A drama preproduced or live shot will not be a hit unless you got a good story that attracts audiences and keeps them coming and also fine actors that can truly sell a story or role and bring the drama to life. All the above listed pre-produced fails had either a bad story (nothing new or fresh) or just pretty bad or basic acting (Hwarang, Moon, the Suzy/Woobin one…).

    I believe preproduced dramas is the best for everyone in the long run (especially the script writers, actors, and poor crew). Production companies simply need to choose better scripts and much better actors during the casting stages.

    • I think it was the two stars and popular writer in a somewhat epic style romance. I found the first half somewhat addictive even if contrived and cheesy, but it kind of petered out and I struggled to finish the last two episodes. I understand why it was popular but not why it was hallyu popular.

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