Cable channels are riding high on a wave of popularity of U.S. drama series, especially those focusing on crime like "Prison Break" and "CSI." The Chosun Ilbo takes a look at four keys to their success.
U.S. soaps that depict the lives of professionals have become a big hit in Korea. "CSI," "ER," "Grey's Anatomy" and "House" are the prime examples, dealing as they do with the lives and work of FBI agents, police, doctors and lawyers.
A staffer with CGV said, "In the most popular U.S. soaps, most of the leading characters are professionals with good educational backgrounds. 'The Sopranos,' a drama about gangsters that enjoyed huge popularity in the U.S., got little attention from Korean viewers."
Korean viewers tend to favor specific genres such as crime, investigation and mystery, and the cable channels are eager to meet the demand. The Movie & Entertainment channel on XTM started broadcasting mystery drama "Nine" from Monday, and Story On will start broadcasting crime investigation drama "Psych" from Wednesday. CNTV's new U.S. soap is "Crossing Jordan," in which a beautiful forensic pathologist investigates crime cases.
◆ Bad Weather
The U.S. drama fever is rising in the rainy season. In July, many cable TV channels will broadcast 10 new U.S. soaps. "Many U.S. soaps begin their new seasons in September and end in April or May," a staffer with On Media said. "So most Korean broadcasters are likely to air new U.S. soaps in the middle or end of June."
Terrestrial channel KBS 2TV has been showing "Ugly Betty," which follows the life and work of an unattractive but smart secretary at a fashion magazine. It topped audience ratings and created a social sensation in the U.S., but Korean viewer did not like it much. In the industry, the maxim is that only large-scale dramas can grip Korean viewers. "Band of Brothers" and "Rome" boast huge production values and are hugely popular here. CGV is to start airing another large-scale historical drama, "The Tudors," in July.
◆ 30-Something Women
The main audience of the most popular U.S. series in Korea are women in their 30s. When Wentworth Miller, the star of "Prison Break," visited Seoul in March, 30-something women accounted for more than half of 200 fans who gathered to see him.
"The fans who spent a whole day watching CSI when a cable channel aired it were not college students in their 20s but middle-aged women," an On Media staffer says. "The key to success for U.S. dramas is plot and story development that appeal to female fans in their 30s."