February 4, 2008
YouTube and Non-English Media Content

As we have written about several times here on the C3 blog of late, we've been immersed in a study of YouTube for the past several months that involved going through and coding a variety of details about hundreds of videos on the site. As part of our ongoing effort to provide some very preliminary sketches on some of the interesting data or trends we've found, I wanted to write a bit about some of the more interesting series that appear to have a strong following online.

Binbir Gece. Several times, I ran into posted videos of a Turkish video series called Binbir Gece. It appears these videos became popular after an individual user started splitting individual episodes into pieces short enough to be posted on the video sharing site, from a handful of individuals, none of whom seem to be officially affiliated with the site. A search for the series on YouTube reveals about 2,500 videos in all, These videos appear to generate a significant amount of discussion in the comments section, revealing a community of Turkish-speakers on YouTube that might not be apparent at first glance.

So, what makes Binbir Gece so popular on YouTube? All that I've found about the show is that it is produced by and for Kanal D in Turkey. The translation of the title is Thousand and One Nights, and the show is a television series based on the American film Indecent Proposal.

MariMar. The popularity of Binbir Gece, however, pales in comparison on YouTube to the fervor around Philippine drama MariMar, starring Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, who plays Marimar herself. This series is based on a Mexican telenovela from the 1990s that was popular in the Philippines, and the new Filipino series launched in August 2007 on the GMA Network, trying to capture the massive popularity of the original with an indigenous production. For a plot synopsis, see the Wikipedia page for the series. MariMar's popularity in the Philippines has been massive, including continuously heightened ratings since the show first launched.

There are currently more than 3,600 videos on YouTube that come up in a search for MariMar. While some of them are undoubtedly videos for the Mexican series, the vast majority are of the Filipino version currently airing. Again, the comments surrounding these thousands of clips reveal another side of YouTube, and a predominantly non-English fandom, that might be obscured from a top-down view.

While the popularity of those two programs online were two of the most enlightening discoveries I found when it comes to discovering popular television series from other cultures, I also found a strong interest in Japanese and Korean pop culture on YouTube, particularly of J-Pop and K-Pop bands.

The takeaway for me? That just browsing YouTube's "Most" pages can help media producers, media scholars, and interested media consumers catch some of the most popular trends of cultures they might not necessarily have the pulse of, and likewise discover other niches of the "YouTube community" that prove that the diversity of uses and users on such a site is more decentralized and varied than a word like "community" would lead one to believe.

So, while millions of views are dedicated to popular American television content and the latest online vlog wars, remember that there are a variety of other fandoms and uses of YouTube, like the ones I've outlined here.

We hope to share more of our insights on YouTube as we continue forward with our analysis of our study of the site. Stay tuned. And, in the meantime, feel free to share with me some of your observations about popular international series you've found through the site. Contact me at samford@mit.edu.