If you’re a subscriber like me you’ve gotten the email with the above subject line, and… my immediate response was this:
In answer to the question and given that I’m looking down the list and seeing:
Romance - Fantasy
Idol Drama - Comedy
Costume & Period - Thriller & Suspense
Romantic Comedy - Drama
Romance - Drama
Romance - Supernatural
Romance - Romantic Comedy
Romance - Romantic Comedy
… I gotta say: ☒ No.
Those ^ are the genres of the shows listed in the email. Anybody other than me seeing… hmm… a bit of a lopsided thing going on there? Am I the only one bored to tears with the fact that Viki has transformed itself into a single-genre streaming company?
Look, Romance/Rom-Com as a genre is nice too - once in awhile. But to the exclusion of everything else? No. I understand that there’s this moronic industry presumption that “Everybody into Asian TV dramas wants to watch Rom-Coms,” but a.) I do not know where that comes from, given that sites like Fletnix and Prime somehow manage a more or less even balance between multiple genres rather than a single one and there’s similarly-balanced viewership among all of those genres, and b.) there’s that “priming the pump” function that makes the presumption a kind of “self-fulfilling prophecy.” IOW, if all Viki runs is Rom-Coms and Romance, then of course those are going to be most watched. Because there is nothing else available to watch. Funny how simple availability tends to impact statistics.
So no offense to people who are into the Rom/Rom-Com genre, but it’s intensely frustrating for people who just want a little variety. So just wondering what people think of this genre tunnel vision.
I understand where you are coming from, and I agree that it is good to have a variety of content. One thing I have noticed at Viki is that almost every TV series includes a Romance tag, even if the actual amount of romance is minimal. This may help in part to explain why the genres feel lopsided.
Another issue that may be impacting the choices available is the competition for liscensing rights. AMZ, N**FX, DIS, V*U etc. are competing with V for these shows, and many times the other platforms win the rights. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes with rights negotiations. It could be that Viki tried for certain non-romance series but lost to another platform for financial or other reason. So Viki must do the best they can with what they are able to purchase.
I think they do try to get a variety of genres. I looked at the listing of K Dramas for July- September 2023 at MDL and Viki managed to get several of the non-romance-centric dramas released during that period: “Longing for You”. “My Lovely Boxer,” “Not Others,” “Battle for Happiness,” "Twinkling Watermelon, “Escape of the Seven,” “Boss-dol Mart, " Unpredictable Family,” “Live Your Own Life.” However, many of those type of dramas went to other platforms. Competition in general is fierce.
table, I’m almost exclusively interested in Japanese dramas, mostly because I’m studying the language and I have a preference for Japanese culture in general, but after pot-banging on this issue here for years the general impression I’m getting from Viki is that they’re not even making an effort.
It reminds me of arguments I used to get into with radio station program directors back in the pre-internet days: They were all stuck in this mindset that the only songs people wanted to listen to were songs with which they were familiar, coupled with an unreasoning dread of the audience disappearing if they experience something unfamiliar - which along with the obvious result of nobody ever hearing anything new (unless it was a new release from one of the “familiar” bands,) it evidenced a kind of cowardice and shortsightedness. Because I and every music lover I know craves new songs as much as known and loved songs. (So now I just run my own J-Rock radio station on the 'Net. )
'Same with TV dramas, to omoimasu. There’s an apparent dread of weaning off of the genre that’s perceived as “familiar” when everybody out here in Audienceland knows that something different would be just as appealing if not orders of magnitude more so. So it ends up in a kind of ingrown tunnel-vision and the “self-fulfilling prophecy” thing.
As for competition for programs from the bigger players in the industry, three points:
Assuming that Rom-Coms are in fact the most popular drama genre, that competition would argue that other genres would be more easily available and Rom-Coms would be more difficult to land?
Given that most of this competition is for brand-new shows, what would be wrong with contracting to subtitle and present older shows?
I can’t be the only drama fanatic who would be perfectly happy seeing a variety of shows added even if they were 2, 5, 10, even 20 years old…? If a drama is good, a drama is good - it doesn’t have to be something released last month.
In something like “With Love” which came out in '98 (the first J-drama I ever watched, on the now-defunct I-Channel,) computers are central to its “You’ve Got Mail”-type plot and they look really ancient today, but that’s a rare case - and even that drama had a story good enough (and the music! Whoa!) to overcome the dated-looking equipment. But a harrowing school drama like “Life” from 2007 from Suenobu Keiko’s manga would look as current today as it was 16 years ago; the same with “Iryu: Team Medical Dragon” from '06, “Joker Yurusarezaru Sosakan” from '10, “Doctor X” from '12, “Yasashii Jikan” from '05, and obviously any period historical drama like “Ryomaden” from '10 or “Musashi” from 2003. And though I know nothing about the industry or how its contracts work, I’m thinking older dramas would be less expensive to license anyway.
I think there are likely plenty of options, but for whatever weird reason Viki is not taking them. My guess is, again, it’s that dread of stepping outside of business-as-usual. Note to Viki: Serious police dramas, school dramas, historical dramas, medical dramas are not going to cause Viki viewers to run away screaming. Ok, maybe horror. But with that the screaming is generally a good thing. Plus Halloween’s coming.
mhp, “Unnatural” is already in my watchlist (and Ishihara Satomi can do no wrong - 'first saw her in “Voice” from 2009, another great but older drama,) but not “CODE” - 'just added that one, so thanks for the tip!
I totally get you, loved that drama especially. I don’t care if a drama is old, and I don’t care if it looks dated, and moral or social standards old-fashioned. But I have to acknowledged that younger people, have an issue if something is not at least HD quality, or something that is older than 2015 or 2010.
While I grew up, when you still could use a TV with antenna, and there were movies and series running in black and white. We still used to love those because of the wittiness, or the storytelling, or just the pure acting. I can overlook many things if those essentials are done right.
For example and there is even romance as far as J-drama goes, I loved:
BORDER 2014 disturbing still thrilling
Date 2015 - but in this case I have to confess, I have a soft spot for oddballs
Engine* 2005 - was partly cute with the stories of the children
Good Luck!* 2003
Last Friends 2008
Legal High 2012 + 2013
Long Vacation 1996
Shiroi Haru 2009
Sweet Bean -movie 2015
For Japanese dramas, liscensing issues could still be a factor impacting the dramas available. Japan is notorious for making things difficult to liscense their dramas to foreign countries, either through an unwillingness to negotiate or putting high fees on their content. Which is why there are few Japanese dramas legally available. When Viki was bought by Rakuten in 2013, there was a lot of hope we would see more J content here since Rakuten was a Japanese company, but it didn’t happen for a long time, 5 years at least. Again, we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes with rights negotiations. It could be that Viki tried to get the rights for a certain drama and wasn’t able to due to financial or other reasons. I’m not saying liscensing issues are the only reason you’re not seeing variety of content, bit it could be one factor.
Content liscensing can be tricky, and so can pricing. Yes, the more popular genres should have higher fees, but you never know. It all depends on the content provider. Yes, one would assume that older content would have a lower fee and be more easily available to liscense, but that is not always the case. It really depends on the content providers. Sometimes the older shows can be very difficult to liscense, and sometimes not.
You may be correct, and that may be a factor in the decision-making at Viki. Demand (or perceived demand) could be another factor. Korean content gets the most requests and the most views at Viki, so K content gets more of the budget allocated toward it. All we can do is keep requesting the Japanese dramas to show Viki that there is a demand and market for diverse content, and then watch it when it does come to Viki, to prove it gets views. I’ve been requesting J Drama “Quartet” for years. I hope to watch it at Viki someday.
On Japanese licensing, I’ve heard that too - the Japanese TV companies are much more difficult to deal with than the Korean ones - but I’m just looking at the fact that Viki is in fact putting some new J-dramas on, but they’re all from the same genre. It doesn’t make sense that the only genres that Fuji, Asahi etc license easily, just happen to be: Romances and Rom-Coms. So whoever’s making these decisions at Viki is sticking to that monolithic choice.
Also the fact that Korean content is the most popular here goes back to my point on that “self-fulfilling prophecy” problem: I think the main reason K-dramas are more “popular” than J-dramas is simply because most of the content is K-dramas and a lot of drama fans have never had exposure to Japanese dramas - because the one is so overloaded and the other is so scarce. It’s a continuing snowball effect because it’s “business-as-usual.” I think this is also why there’s the Rom/Rom-Com tunnel vision: “Everybody likes them” …because that’s the vast bulk of what’s available. At some point someone should exercise a little courage and step outside the comfort zone. As I mentioned above, I don’t think I’m the only drama fanatic who is bored to tears with sappy romances and who would be bingeing daily - and urging friends and family to get Viki subs too - if other stuff were available. The fans will respond. But only if they’re given something to respond to, first.
'Scuse the textwall - way, way too much caffeine today.
Yes, I agree Viki is going with the genres that get the most views, but from Viki’s perspective, that is just good business sense. From Viki perspective, they want the highest ROI for the limited budget funds. Romance and Rom Com genres have a proven track record. However, I also agree with you that other genres can have popularity and views if promoted. You make some good points.
This is true. The liscensing difficulties for J dramas have caused Japan to miss out on the Asian dramas wave.
Another issue is often drama fans are reluctant to try content outside their favorites. Korean drama fans only watch K dramas, J drama fans only watch J dramas, C drama fans only watch C dramas, etc. So even when the J dramas are available, there is reluctance by many fans of other countries to watch. I think this is where word-of-mouth can really help. If a K drama fan posts about a cool J drama and encourages others to watch, then we can see views rise. I saw it happen with J drama “Silent.”
I agree with you. You don’t know you like something unless you try it, and it has to be available for you to try.
I do think Viki is testing out other genres in J drama with titles like “CODE,” “The Sealer,” “Isekai Izakaya Nobu." Viki also has been adding winners from the Tokyo Drama Awards that are non-romance-centric like “Your Home Is My Business.,” Don’t Call It Mystery," “Heaven and Hell: Soul Exchange,” and 2022 Grand Prix winner “Dearest.” [Although they haven’t added “Quartet.”- still hoping]
So I do believe that there is hope for more variety of content in the future. We just have to keep requesting and watching these different dramas when they are on Viki, and try to promote them through word-of-mouth when we can. If we can show there is a market for this type of content, then hopefully the amount will increase.