October 24, 2011
Collaboration across Borders: Interview with Seung Bak of DramaFever

Founded in 2009, DramaFever, an English language video site for Asian TV shows is now the largest US-based site of its kind, boasting over a million active users every month. I had the chance to interview Seung Bak, one of the founders of DramaFever about why the site has become so successful. He also told me about some of the collaborations DramaFever has been able to foster between American fans and producers of Asian dramas.

Sheila Murphy Seles:
Can you tell me a little about your background and why you founded DramaFever?

Seung Bak: We grew up watching a lot of foreign TV/movies like Korean dramas, Hong Kong action flicks, Japanese anime, etc., but there was no convenient way to enjoy these shows abroad, much less on demand or in English so I could understand them. Offline, the options were limited to ethnic TV or video rentals. Online was a plethora of illegal sites that fans flocked to despite poor user experience. We saw a tremendous opportunity to aggregate what the rest of the world watches and make it available on demand in high quality with subtitles so anyone can enjoy the world's best entertainment. We launched DramaFever a little over two years ago, and we quickly became the largest US-based, English language video site for Asian TV shows with over a million active users watching 150+ million minutes a month.

Prior to DramaFever, I headed up marketing for Capital IQ where I was part of the early core team that built it from $0 to $350MM revenue business. My partner was head of international licensing for Ziff Davis. So we had the right mix of media and company building experience to make this all work.

SMS: What are your biggest initiatives currently at Dramafever?

SB: We have three major initiatives. First, replicate our success with East Asian content to Latin American telenovelas and Bollywood. Second, make our service broadly available on all the major mobile and Internet-enabled TV platforms. Finally, open up our service outside of US with multiple subtitle languages so the rest of the world can enjoy our content.

SMS: What's the most interesting example of collaboration you've seen between fans and content creators?

SB: A sign of what's to come is our success with a recent Korean TV series called Heartstrings that we simulcast on our site. We worked closely with the production company to allow our users to pick the official drama name, send messages to the lead actress, and run various promotions on Facebook and Twitter. In less than two months, Heartstrings became the third most watched title on our site all time and the fastest to reach a million views. The punch line here is that Heartstrings was an unequivocal ratings disappointment in Korea, and its success on DramaFever underscores our growing collaboration with the online fan community.

Seung Bak will be participating in a panel discussion entitled, "Collaboration? Emerging Models for Audiences to Participate in Entertainment Decision-Making" at our Futures of Entertainment Conference on November 11.