US Audiences Engaging in Asian OTT Content: what opportunities for US-based Players & Regional Champions?

Last August, Netflix released a live-action adaptation of the anime hit One Piece: 62M views later, the Los Gatos-based firm commissioned a second season of the show. Aside from its popular success, the series is also the result of the collaboration between Netflix teams from both the US and Japan, who worked closely with One Piece’s creator, Eiichiro Oda. Continent-wise, national Asian OTT champions expand beyond their borders, helped by public funding which guarantees significant numbers of local titles produced. But what strategies do such players adopt to push their catalog to the other side of the Pacific? Conversely, how do US-based players adapt to fulfill the US audiences’ growing appetite for Asian content? The soft-power of Asian Content in the US: K-Drama, Anime & Asian Cinema The top-of-mind illustration of this trend is the generalist platforms’ growing appetite for Asian content. The success of Squid Games, both on a quantitative - it remains the #1 most viewed non-English TV show on the platform - and artistic level - more than 14 Emmy nominations - led to an increase in the investments in the regional content. Indeed, Netflix has been reported to invest $2.5B in South Korea alone over the next four years. This investment - twice the amount spent in this market in 2016 - will be used to produce both scripted and unscripted shows. In terms of commissioning, the number of Korean titles increased by 2.5% on Netflix’s catalog between April and September 2023, and so has the quantity of Japanese titles (+2.3%). As far as Netflix’s rival Disney+ is concerned, the Mickey House signed another deal with its long-term partner Kodansha, in late 2022. Teaming up with such an animation powerhouse will allow them to develop a slate of original anime on top of licensing exclusive shows such as Tokyo Revengers. Besides streaming giants, the growing appetite for Asian content led to the creation and success of platforms that are fully dedicated to Asian content: the most popular being Crunchyroll, an anime platform streaming famous hits such as One Piece. Perceived as a “niche streamer”, the latter was bought out in 2020 by Sony for $1.18B, and described as “solidly profitable” by Rahul Purini, its president. The keys behind the hit involve attractive content - 91% of its catalog is Japanese content - but not only. Crunchyroll rolled out hybrid subscription options way before streamers such as Netflix and others did: free ad-supported plan, fans can subscribe to plans ranging from $7.99 to $14.99 per month, with different benefits associated with each plan. Those perks can for instance include access to live events, merchandising, and premieres of the Anime movies Crunchyroll distributes in North America. Beyond anime,...

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