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Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos will never forget the day he met with director Bong Joon Ho in 2017 to discuss Okaythe sci-fi action drama that became Netflix’s first international film.
“He is an absolute master and gave me a crash course in Korean cinema. I learned so much,” he said. “And after that I had the great privilege of introducing him to Martin Scorsese, one of his heroes. A few years later, director Bong won the Oscars for best director and best picture Parasite, the same year Martin Scorsese was nominated. It’s been great to see him go from fan to equal.”
During his first visit to Korea since being named co-CEO of Netflix, Sarandos delved into Netflix’s partnership with Korean creators and K-content’s success overseas.
“A staggering 60 percent of our members have now seen a Korean title, with viewing of K content increasing sixfold globally over the past four years,” he said. “Just take one genre: romance: 90 percent of K-romance views now come from outside Korea. And last year, our Korean film Carter and two TV shows — All of us are dead AND The glory – reached the Netflix top 10 in over 90 countries. Of course, nothing beats enough Squid game – the biggest TV show in history on any metric we’ve ever seen.
In April, Netflix revealed it would invest $2.5 billion in Korea over the next four years, including television series, movies and unscripted shows. Aside from the production front, the investment will include funding for training programs for aspiring filmmakers and the next generation of creators in front of and behind the camera.
For example, Netflix is partnering with the Korea Radio Promotion Association to help talented local students gain experience in the production industry.
“Between 2022 and 2025, one in five Netflix titles in Korea will come from a first-time writer or director,” Sarandos said. “Just yesterday I met 100 students with director Park Chan-wook, all future screenwriters and directors with so much potential. We must collectively invest in their talent as an industry.”
Netflix also highlighted the company’s committed partnership with local gamers. Daniel Son, CEO of local VFX studio Westworld, responsible for developing special visual effects for hit series such as Sweet Home (2020), The silent sea (2021) and All of us are dead (2022), attended as a keynote speaker on Thursday to discuss the company’s growth over the years as a Netflix partner.
“Our studio started in 2018 with just three people and has expanded to 190 employees over the years,” said Son. “Our revenue has increased 74 times since 2018.”
Scanline, a VFX arm of Netflix, which the streaming giant acquired in 2021, has also devised a series of training programs to nurture young postproduction talent through workshops and seminars. The company, founded in 1989, has participated in Netflix original series Stranger things and Marvel Eternals.
In a session with local creators and partners, the streaming giant also touched on some of the more sensitive issues like the debate over the company’s profit-sharing structure and whether it’s fair for Netflix to acquire all the intellectual property rights to the dramas and films produced here .
“When we make deals, we ensure our studios and creators are compensated fairly,” Sarandos said. “It’s a competitive market and we compensate a lot at the top of the market. Overall, it is important to us to stay competitive and promote a healthy ecosystem. We will provide sufficient support. And if a show is successful, we make sure the creators are rewarded in the right way next season.”
Sarandos’ two-day visit was also seen as an effort to influence the country’s high-level decisions over the company’s conflict with a South Korean mobile operator SK Broadband over network usage charges. The company’s co-head was reported to have met with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and other key officials on Thursday to discuss the expanded partnership between the United States and South Korea.
In 2021, a Seoul court ruled in favor of SK Broadband, arguing that Netflix must make a restitution payment for Netflix’s high traffic usage. Netflix appealed the court’s decision and the trial is currently pending.
Netflix didn’t reveal details about the timing of its new password sharing policy, which now bans account sharing outside of one’s household. However, the company said the policy is a global initiative that will continue over the next couple of months and that eventually Korea will also be the target of the measure.
“Who would have guessed that a TV show made in Korea for Koreans would cause a green overalls craze in America or increase Vans sneaker sales by nearly 8,000% when released on Netflix?” Sarandos said. “This is the power of Korean storytelling.”