A Disney Content Director Drew a Line in the Sand

A Disney Director Drew a Line in the Sand

September 20, 2022

Last week, the newsreels were working overtime after word came out that a Disney content director made the bold claim that Korean streaming content "is superior to Japanese content in terms of expansion power" and that Korean content "is loved in multiple areas outside of one country and evokes empathy". The comment was needlessly incendiary (given the historical animosity between the two countries, also not surprising). But it does raise an interesting question about how far and wide both the Korean and Japanese TV and film markets will grow over the next several years. 

Korean and Japanese Media Continue to Gain International Appeal 

Both Korean and Japanese media have had international fans for decades, although generally limited to certain genres.

For Japan, anime has been a long-time international export, especially to the U.S. The U.S. anime market was worth nearly $2B in 2022, while the international market for anime is worth nearly $27B. Internet distribution (e.g., streaming via services like Crunchyroll, Hulu, and HiDive) is a major part of that, easing the access and expanding the footprint into international fanbases. 

For years, the interest in Korean film was primarily in Korean dramas, known more colloquially as K-Drama. A few major hits in the past few years (notably, the movie 'Parasite' and the Netflix series 'Squid Game') have completely changed the game for the Korean media industry and its broader acceptance. 

1. Is Korean Content Really More Acceptable to International Markets?

Let's look at the counterfactual. The full quoted claim made by Disney's content director for its Asia-Pacific content was that "Korean material is superior to Japanese content in terms of expansion power, in which particular content is loved in multiple areas outside of one country and evokes empathy."

This suggests the opposite is true of Japanese content: that it lacks equivalent expansion power, is not as loved outside of its how country, and doesn't evoke empathy. That's a fairly loaded comment.

Subjectively, it shows a lack of understanding of Japanese media (and anime, in particular, which is incredibly dynamic and richly varied in themes,

, and narrative development). 

Objectively, however...there may be some truth to it when one considers the live-action content market. Japanese media may still be a bit pigeonholed within the anime genre. Few live-action Japanese TV shows or movies make waves in US or international markets.

Conversely, thanks to 'Parasite' and 'Squid Game', most people can name at least one Korean TV show or film that they've now seen that isn't a K-Drama. In light of that, the Korean media industry is slowly beginning to claw its way out of K-Drama as its chief international export, while the Japanese media industry may still have anime as its primary export to international TV and movie fans.

2. Does It Really Matter?

Here's the more important question. Does it actually matter that Japan's chief visual export is likely to continue being anime, while the Korean TV and film industry is taking hold in the live-action market? 

No. Not at all. 

For its part, Japanese anime is increasingly mainstream. As Hollywood Reported highlighted in a May 2022 article, Japanese anime is now one of the world's

. That's a testament to the fact that it's become more widely accepted by viewers across all backgrounds, even many who even a decade ago would never have considered watching anime before.

For its part, the Korean film industry's wide international growth is thanks in no small part to international streaming services like Netflix. Producers in the industry have also been

, matching styles and strategies. That method has allowed Korean film and TV production companies to create content that is familiar to international and U.S. audiences. 

3. Market Maturity Builds International Interest and Empathy

Our takeaway here: In her attempt to appeal to Korean audiences and promote Disney, its regional content director may have been unnecessarily divisive with appeals to underlying ethnic tensions between Japan and Korea. That was undoubtedly wrong in form, but it was also wrong in its assessment. The Japanese media industry is exceptionally mature. Even if its chief export right now is anime, the genre itself is dizzyingly broad and increasingly mainstream. 

Meanwhile, the Korean TV and film industry is growing at a nice pace, thanks to the help of

--- the same services that are benefiting the Japanese media industry. 

This Week's Streaming Guide

1. Hulu Sitcom 'Reboot' Premieres Today

"An early 2000s family sitcom is rebooted, and the dysfunctional cast must deal with their unresolved issues in today's fast-changing world."  Streaming today (Sept. 20) on Hulu. -

2. Disney's New Star Wars Series 'Andor' Premieres

The highly-anticipated series 'Andor' premieres on Disney+ this Wednesday (Sept. 21). -

3. All Law and Orders Series Returning Thursday

'Law and Order' fans have a fun night ahead of themselves as 'Law and Order', 'SVU', and 'Organized Crime' return with new seasons on NBC. Watch this Thursday (Sept. 22) starting at 8 PM EST. -

4. New Celebrity Version of Jeopardy! Premieres Sunday 

Celebs take the reigns in the all-new Celebrity Jeopardy! starting this Sunday (Sept. 25) at 8 PM EST on ABC. -

News and Industry Developments

1. NFL Fans React Wildly to New Amazon Thursday Night Football

Older fans who still use traditional cable were particularly confused as to where to locate the stream. -

  2. Disney+ and Hulu Could Be Merging Soon 

The merger of the two services would be a welcome change for some people, but not for others. -

  3. Paramount Plans to Shut Down Showtime 

It will likely merge Showtime into Paramount+. -

4. WarnerBros. CFO Says HBO Max/Discovery+ Is 'Underpriced'

That could mean a major price hike is coming. -

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