President and CEO of KBS, Ko Dae-young, has more than 30 years of experience in public broadcasting. (Photo credit: Asian Television Awards)
By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
This year, Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)’s President and CEO, Ko Dae-young, received the Asian Television Award for Outstanding Contribution to Asian Television. The awards show, as part of the Singapore Media Festival, recognised Ko for his “entrepreneurial spirit and remarkable business accomplishments”, which have “greatly influenced the growth of the entertainment industry throughout the region.”
With the broadcaster investing heavily to lead the next-generation in television broadcasting and media services, IMpact met with the executive to get his insights on the evolving digital media landscape and how he is tackling the challenges ahead.
How do you see the role of a public broadcaster developing in the 21st century?
Our main mandate remains to serve the public at large, but what is changing is how we’re serving them. We have to get adjusted to the new digital environment to better serve them, but we still have to entertain while giving good information, and paying attention to the socially marginalised. I believe we’ve remained the most trusted media in Korea because we do not take sides; we present the information as it is and aim to remain as balanced as possible.
What do you think are some key audience consumption trends ahead and how is KBS preparing for these changes?
The world is going mobile and we have to adapt. We’re losing our traditional terrestrial broadcast audience, while our audience on our mobile platforms is growing. That requires mobile-friendly content which is also compatible with OTT [over-the-top] platforms. We’re preparing to launch a new mobile platform in March and so we’re gearing our productions for that by creating new drama and entertainment content in 15-minute-long episodes.
My big headache is that we’re also going to be offering ultra-high definition (UHD) content in February, so with the new content being created I have to consider two factors now, UHD and mobile, and possibly combining the two – so creating UHD content that will also work on a mobile device. Everybody is focusing on mobile, but I believe UHD shouldn’t be neglected; there is a rising demand there, too.
Is KBS looking to expand onto OTT platforms?
We’ve already launched Pooq (a live TV streaming and video-on-demand platform launched in 2012) in a joint venture with MBC and SBS. Right now it’s only available in Korea, but beginning next year, we’ll be going overseas, starting with the United States in the first quarter of 2017.
Korea has succeeded in exporting its media content globally. What is the key behind Korean dramas that resonates with the global audience and how can other Asian countries do the same?
Our dramas are really about human nature. Descendants of the Sun, Love in the Moonlight are love stories between young people, and our approach is always more light-hearted, I think, than Hong Kong or Chinese dramas. Our dramas are not too serious and we’re driving our characters toward a happy ending. Family values are also quite important in our dramas; culturally that relates well with all Asian viewers.
I never quite know whether the production will be a success from the start, but after a couple of episodes, we do have a strong inkling whether the public will like it. While some of our dramas are pre-produced, some are also getting made on the go (as they’re being shown), and with those we’re able to analyse audience reaction and change course if need be. I think it’s very important to have a system in place that allows you to receive feedback from your audience, (then) reflect and act.
Tell us more about the feedback system that KBS has in place. How do you measure your audience response and how does KBS react to it?
We have big data, but we also do a lot of surveys with a professional monitoring team that analyses the reports and conveys the results to the production team, and if need be we adjust the storyline. For example, recently with the drama On the way to the Airport, we could see that our main target audience, women in their 40s, really didn’t like the storyline, so we changed the ending to make it more positive and hopeful.