Big Three Networks SBS, MBC, and KBS to Cut Prime Time K-drama Production in Half in 2021 After Another Lackluster Ratings Year in 2020

Sigh, this is what happens when the product value drops and people find alternative options. If I could watch K-dramas on television to help with domestic ratings I would because I love the variety available and to know that low ratings = fewer CFs sold = losing money which ultimately leads to fewer K-dramas being produced and that sucks. K-ent is reporting this week (article) that 2020 is basically a total dud for the Big Three networks MBC, KBS, and SBS when it comes to their prime time dramas despite four more months remaining. All three networks have announced that it will be essentially cutting its K-drama production in half in 2021, and actually it’s already decreased this year from prior years. KBS had 12 prime time dramas this year and is scheduling only 7 for next year, and same goes with MBC scheduling 6 and SBS is scheduling 8 for next year.

The different ways to try and make money hasn’t work – from splitting each episode in half to broadcast more CFs, sell from PPL, and create different drama formats like 4-episode and 8-episode dramas. SBS took the boldest move of ending Wed-Thurs dramas (which used to be THE most coveted time slot) and starting Fri-Sat prime time dramas and focusing on Mon-Tues dramas, but that hasn’t worked out either. Only Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2 got high ratings, and the few SBS dramas to get above 5% ratings Hyena, Good Casting, and The King: Eternal Monarch still did not make money for SBS due to the high cost of each episode production especially with The King. An insider explained that drama productions cost billions of won and the Big Three networks are basically unable to recoup cost and definitely can’t make a profit, and also competition from cable networks and cheaper variety shows are making it untenable for this to continue much longer.


Big Three Networks SBS, MBC, and KBS to Cut Prime Time K-drama Production in Half in 2021 After Another Lackluster Ratings Year in 2020 — 58 Comments

  1. This is not a big surprise. They should definitely look at why these dramas are failing and why they keep producing these boring, generic dramas that the audience has no interest in watching.

    The majority of these dramas aren’t as appealing as what was produced a few years ago. They should work on fixing what’s wrong in terms of these scripts and chemistry between their leads and cast.

    Stop throwing two popular people together in hopes of getting the views because it’s just not working.

    At least if the main leads have strong chemistry, there’s a high chance they could make a boring script work but these current dramas seriously lack everything that makes kdramas fun and exciting to watch now.

  2. The industry knew this and released articles last month pretty much saying TV is over? It has nothing to do with dramas. People have just moved away from TV.

    Not many countries watch TV SK seems to be one of the last countries to move away from it. There is streaming people moved away and the channels, productions teams and the insider know this pretty much since they released couple of articles on it. TV is pretty much over and has been over since last year. There is wavve Tv’ing and other streaming platforms in SK and I am hearing Wavve has like 15mio+ stremers and this effectively ends the Tv-rating era

    • This pretty much. Everyone kinda knew this was inevitable and I mean who even watches TV in 2020 and especially for a high tech country like SK. All dramas should land on 1% from 2021 and onwards to 2030 which means the very old generation will still watch TVs making that 1% but other then that it’s pretty much a bygone era for TV.

      Commericials will have to move into streaming platforms such as Wavve and Tv’ing etc etc

      • I’m sorry, some of these dramas should never have been funded. I felt the lull this year because I suddenly didn’t have dramas to look forward to and even then they would be cable dramas. TV is dying thats definitely a contributing factor but quality is also another. So here’s to fewer dramas but hopefully better content

  3. So sad, less production = less variety= they can’ afford anymore to pay top actors as they are no longer a guarantee of high ratings and the ones who are going to lose much more than us , are the workers of the entertainment industry ! Sigh…

    • It has nothing to do with money or casts but it’s due to the younger generations and even 30s and 40s moving away from TV.

      people just moved away from TV just like how it is in the USA, Europe, gulf countries, and in other developed countries. We are in the streaming age hence the top actors will even thrive more then previously. B-lister and C-listers will lose out on this since the drama production will be cut shorter and shorter which results less casting for them and job opportunity but the few in the top half of the industry will increase in payment due to the streaming platforms they will bring them out for these. The top half of the industry thrive even better then before

    • Interest in kdramas seem to be getting revived with its greater availability through Netflix, and less variety is just going to nip it in the bud. I guess this does prove that international ratings/views doesn’t mean anything for these domestic broadcasting stations. They want the domestic ratings and trend.

      • Example if you go back to the 90s you would say dramas hitting 60% and it has been decreasing from year to year all the way upto now where example 20% was the norm just 10 years ago it’s due to the boom of technology and people having so much alternative which means the viewers haven’t left they are still there just not on TV and still watching dramas but just not on TV while minority watching we are starting to see the 1%’s occur frequently lately and this has already happened in other countries way before the SK and this will be the norm going forward.

        It’s due to the technology boom and people moving into streaming platforms within SK meaning the TV era is coming to an end

      • @HD

        It all makes sense now because I use to wonder what happened to these 60% viewership from the 90s and it all makes sense due to the technology increase and alternative options

  4. Who watches regular TV anymore? There’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Youtube TV, iQiyi, Viki. Even the cable networks are going toward the subscription streaming on demand route. tVN and JTBC has TVing. HBO has HBO Max. Kakao M is going to produce original content like dramas and films for mobile devices. There was a Korean article recently which talked about advertisers needing to think differently. Focus shouldn’t be on the antiquated tv ratings system that rely on numbers from regular TV, but advertisers have to look at other big-data analytics from companies like Good Data.

    • Good data needs to expand its metrics and make clearer data sets on popularity and buzz. This will be the next big thing ‘Online Popularity Data’ mark my words

  5. 10 Reasons Why..and so on
    1. Every drama has romance element.
    2. Always Cinderella’s story with cringey lines.
    3. Big budget on the production and actors but the direction and script is meh.
    4. Using idols(with 0 experience) as main leads.
    5. Excessive use of PPL’s.
    6. Netflix, Cable Channels.
    7. Age Gap of the leads.(Pairing Uncles to Babies/ Aunt to Babies).
    8. Good dramas are scheduled at late night.
    9. No moral lesson. It’s always bed scenes.
    10. Recycled plots.

  6. Netflix was saved by the pandemic. Nothing ever stays the same in the tech/streaming world of today. Netflix has had competition but they have more now especially with Disney pulling all their content which includes ABC content. They lost their Brit content to Acorn & Brit Box. It is all supply and demand just like Dramafever ended when Kocowa started and Netflix started increasing its international content.

    What the big 3 in Korea are doing seems like what daytime television did in the U.S. which is they dumped all but a few of the daytime soaps. They found with women not in the home and talk shows cheaper to produce, it made sense to move in that direction. Korea does variety very well so I wish them well in that.

    The stations should of course work on the quality of writing but I think lowering production costs is probably key. Big A list actors don’t equal a sure-fire ratings win anymore. Anyway, I’m rooting for the entertainment industry as some of the dramas on streaming and cable are as godawful as the ones on the big three stations. Maybe without the crunch of putting out drama after drama, they will be able to watch their production costs more and get better scripts. I’m rooting for them.

  7. China has huge streaming platforms like iQiyi, Tencent, Youku competing and airing web dramas that don’t make it onto satellite tv, and its very different from the short k-web dramas. China shell out big bucks for these and churn out multiple lengthy series a year for online streaming only. Has Korea not yet jumped on that train?

  8. i wonder how would they conduct the drama awards? and I’m actually looking into the sbs drama awards this year, because the rating competition was fierce, especially for the miniseries one. i wonder what drama would dominate the award? dr. romantic kim? hyena? ir hot stove league? i think the upcoming drama alice also would have high rating

      • I think this next week’s ratings are key because they did pop up last week. I am of the opinion that Korean viewers weren’t too keen on LJG playing a serial killer and now know the drama is going a different direction.

      • I’m thinking that the flower of evil ratings is decent. remember that the drama is airing almost at midnight. many ppl already gone to bed during this time. so with this rating, i think it’s doing well for this time slot. and i believe the rating would increase, iff the watchers willing to sacrifice their sleep

  9. TV died while the audience have moved into streaming. The endorsements will follow as they depend on the audience leaving TV channels with nothing because there time is up

  10. The way those star writers, directors, actors charge, its no wonder dramas can’t survive the chop. OTT platforms are expanding so I guess the future business model will be them financing the production of dramas and the big 3 can just buy the content as a local country distributor instead. That will keep dramas on air for terrestrial while shifting the big monies to those who can afford it. Big name casting these days don’t guarantee a hit and kudos to stations like JTBC who still give chances to up and coming writers and production who know how to tell a good story instead of relying on hype to boost ratings. Korean dramas literally fall into 2 categories these days. The ultra expensive big name cast, big name writer, big name director dramas that are all eager to outdo one another in the expenses department and regular run of mill cheap to produce B list type of romcom or office dramas with some familiar faces that screams filler programming cos that’s all we can afford. Thats why dramas like JTBC’s Sky Castle, World of Married, OCN’s Good Detective can break out. They broke the mould offering instead insightful and powerful story telling that neither rely on hype casting or brand name writer/director. Truth is viewers are still there (going by the crazy ratings of the above 2 dramas by JTBC) but they need a good reason to tune in due to the jadedness set in by poor content over time.

    • I think you’re right viewers are there but only once or twice a year when something HUGE comes out but nobody wants to make year long commitments to it.

  11. I have seen alot of 1% dramas recently 2019 and in 2020s and at first I thought it was anomaly but now I understand why because if you go back just 4-5 years 1% was not the standard. All the big channels including cables are getting 1% here and there.

    The big 3 doesn’t seem to care whether TV disappears or not because they have a big share of the streaming so they have nothing to lose there since Wavve is active on behalf of big 3

    • But how, on earth, will be able to watch the news on what’s been happening around the world, if streaming is all we do?
      What will happen to our information on political or other important issues?
      This could be the end of us participating fully in global events or demonstrations.

  12. They should also have it on streaming service because the rating does indicate loyal viewer but not in the long-run investment and popularity.
    TvN and JTBC still can make a high rating with the channel.

    I don’t think it the matter of contents because drama like Nobody Knows, Stove League has a well-rounded story that people should be able to revisit.

  13. Do fewer dramas mean more movies? Actors need to be employed so they will do something right? If Kakao launches its online platform which is expected to take over from Netflix is it possible actors will shift there? Kakao and Wavve are partners so how is the content sharing supposed to work? It’s a whole new world and I’m not sad to see TV ratings go because they’ve been unreliable for years now.

    • A list stars will be fine as netflix is willing to pay them as their drama gets huge streaming stats. It will be small budget drama actors who r going to lose.

      • The first wave of Netflix Original actors must be thanking their stars. As everyone knows Netflix is extremely loyal. Those actors are going to be happily employed with big budgets and salaries. Hurray!

      • Disagree that only A listers are fine in Netflix. Look at AC! Small budget Netflix exclusives (eg Love Alarm, Good Morning Call) are doing well as long as the storylines and actings are good. IC did well on Netflix. Reality shows (eg Terrace House) also doing well. Not all Netflix productions require A listers. I believe small budget productions can have a place in streaming sites. I like watching Animes in Netflix without any A list stars influence, animes is hugh business. Aunties probably will not understand.

  14. Koalas aunty streaming is the present n future. But u n ur minions r too dumb to understand that but the change of tunes in this topic is hilarious. ?

  15. Streaming is cirrent trend of time whether music or acting . I mean BTS online concert about 100 mins grossed 21 million dollars in tickets anf 9 million usd in merchandise from streaming??
    That is worth 5 or 6 stadium dates

    • BTS will be irrelevant in the future. So, they better enjoy their prime. Meanwhile, the likes of Kim Soo Hyun, Lee Min Ho and Hyun Bin will forever be the Kings of Kdramaland.

      • Rofl u haters r saying it for ten years. With bighit new ipo where they have new contracts and rumored stocks making them so rich that they never have to work and they r more than fine because they made bighit multi billion conpany and dont forget army r bts fans . Not kpop fans, we care for bts only. They r going to sell millions in solo albums too. Infact suga free mixtape charted top 10 everywhere without any physical release. Get a grip! BTS r going nowhere and new stadium is going to be built. They recently won another merit award. Their impact crossed every k actor fame! They r global stars. BTS maknae line will destroy every sales record the day they release solo albums! Nope u dont have crystal ball! They are and will be successful as BTS, solos and producers. Get that in ur head!

      • Oh i remember u r sohyun fan. UR girl is not even in discussion with hallyu stars let alone global stars like BTS. She is too D lister to even get mentioned along with these names!

      • Sorry, what is the connection of So Hyun here? LOL. I am not a fan of hers. I am neutral for her, Yoo Jung, Sae Ron, and all other peers. Actually, I used to bash her using other accounts. But let us not talk about it anymore.

        If we are going to compare fandom versus fandom. Let us make it related like Kim Soo Hyun and Lee Min Ho. TVXQ vs. BTS. My faves are Korea’s faves while yours are completely irrelevant in Korea. Ewww.

      • aRE YOU KIDDING ME? bts IRRELEVANT IN KOREA? Lmaoo that’s delusion of highest order when they are only ones who can sell out stadiums in korea, get awarded korean cutural merit awards, top digital artist of last 3 years which is possible only if gp like them. They top gallup all the time but they r not popullar. BTS antis are on other level who r stuck in 2013!
        Tvxq? They r irrelevant since like 2009. They never had GP like BTS had. Get ur facts str8 lmao. Second gen fans living in past and cant accept BTS has surpassed all of ur has been faves And ur girls r D listers. Get over it
        BTS are most awarded, most popular, have highest digital index, have order of merit and now a stadium built because of them. when will ur faves? GP call them pride of country.
        Ur fanfiction is hilarious! BTS are top most stars not only in korea but worldwide. Come to present! Calling bts irrelevant in korea. Biggest joke and shows how bitter u r 2nd gen fan!

      • If you wanna talk about fandom, just see every award which BTS dont even attend n still get most chants. This is hilarious. when will ur fave have 4 billion usd yearly economic effect. BTS has biggest fandom in korea ever and outside it is not even up for debate!
        They are the top most celebrities in korea where variety shows beg them to come on there shows which they refuse!

      • And regarding lmh khs. KIng is bigger hit overall than highest paid flop actor comeback. Even on netflix his show is behind king. Eww ur faves r pr kings. whereas MY faves work get appreciation! Ew glory hunter.
        But how could i take someone serious a bitter 2nd gen fan who called bts irrelevant when his has been group cant even chart in korea? Lmao. BTS has surpassed all of ur faves. They are superstars everywhere. ur has beens cant relate

      • Top most star in the world? HAHAHHA. THIS IS BIGGEST LIE EVER. They cannot even win a critically-acclaimed award in Billboard or Grammys. They are just world little stars with big fandom of arrogant and ignorant people.

      • @kayla boyband dont even get invitation to grammies and bts got invites. They dont sing in english. Grmamies r ttash. And yes they r world star with top world tours.
        Stay pressed anti that ur fave will never touch their njmbers. They r biggest stars i korea and world. Come to 2020 has been 2nd gen fan. Ur faves r nothing

  16. Has it occurred to any viewer more streaming platforms mean more charges to us? Netflix, Disney plus and Brit box all charge and on top of that, here in England we still pay TV licences so that just means I chose which platform I want to watch. At the end of the day, it is the streaming platform that can afford to pay the highest to their actors, writers and PD that wins. So basically, the more money they have the money they will earn. It doesn’t necessarily mean better quality dramas though because each station will have their bias.

    • Yes, in the US this has been known that we will all have to pick and choose streaming services because as much as people tend to hate the cable bill, we can end up paying as much in streaming at the end of it all. At least my mom won’t be forced into paying for ESPN for 30 years and never watching it because the cable companies would never let people go a la carte.

  17. In times when streaming websites and TV stations benefit a lot since people who have to stay at home are watching more, and those station’s Dramas still have mediocre ratings. Instead of changing their ways they cut the cost. Sure, when you still give your audience what they don’t want they surely will watch now when the Dramas run on too low budget.

    Time to man up, reach out for each other and start a streaming plattform since you can’t copy what the small stations do (interesting scripts, good casting, well balanced directing and editing) with their often incredible popular Dramas.

  18. COVID 19 once and for all pulled the plug on the tv box. Tvn, Jtbc and Ocn will go next. Just a few more years before tv becomes completely irrelevant and steaming will be the only King ?

  19. I, for one, stopped watching because the dramas were not entertaining, nor were there actors who could act. Being older than 25, I could not relate to the “idol” lead dramas. Do not share the love of either their music, acting, unisex look or the abuse of them as human beings.

  20. Well i prefer comedy now,as mystic pop up bar kdrama has the winner!it released the stressed while we are drawning in the middle of covid19
    Koala never post the review,so bad,meanwhile it’s highly recommended!

  21. I think in addition to the above reasons why Kdrama is failing is the rise of the BL Series. I have cadillac cable but since I discover Bl I have watch TV 3 times in the past year. Note to self cancel cable. In addition to viki, netfliks hulu,and Qiyi,Amazon Prime,this ‘auntie’ have 6 other streaming sites that she visit. I watch a drama,if I really enjoy it, I visit wattpad and others to look for the english translation or I visit amazon to buy the translated novel.In response to one comment that ‘aunties’ do not understand streaming. Most do understand and also watch anime,manga,danmei etc. With so many choices would you waste your time on a mediocre kdrama. The majority of kdramas are women and the majority that watch Bl are women. You do the maths.

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