Korean Success

27 Feb 2017


Big Format Buyers, Co-Development Aficionados and Respect
By Lunita S V Mendoza


Asia has definitely been good to CJ E&M. Their music entertainment format I Can See Your Voice sold like hotcakes throughout Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia. Of course, China was in on the action as well, and Malaysia may be next in line.

Why, Season II has already been signed for the Indonesian and Thai markets.

Since the course of true love never did run smooth, iNSiGHTS wondered what issues could CJ E&M possibly face in 2017. Hwang Jin Woo, Head of Formats at CJ E&M’s Media Content Business, highlighted that the real question is, if Korean formats can go beyond the regional boundaries.

“The answer is yes,” says Jin. “Korean formats are travelling further and faster.”


Hwang Jin Woo
Head of Formats
Media Content Business

“We believe that Asia can be the next wave of creativity. We are living in a time of ‘being local is the new global’. I believe Asian creativity will become the next big hit. And I want Asian producers to believe that too. As for CJ E&M, we are always open for co-operation to step further.”
– Hwang Jin Woo, Head of Formats at CJ E&M’s Media Content Business

Grandpas over Flowers (CJ E&M) – which Jin refers to as “just the beginning” – is being lapped up in multiple territories and the US version is commissioned for its second season. I Can See Your Voice (CJ E&M), as mentioned, has been commissioned and gained huge local success in over seven countries.

King of Masked Singer (MBC), Fantastic Duo (SBS), Hidden Singer (JTBC) will be localized in Europe soon. 

CJ E&M itself is looking forward to exciting announcements soon,” Jin offered, being all mysterious. 

In the end, all this means 2017 will be the most important year for Korean formats.

However, it is not all I, me and myself, as new successes will come from co-development, a hot favourite in Korea today. Society Game, CJ E&M’s co-development format project with ESG, resulted in differentiated creativity. And Jin assures, there will be more co-development announcements between Korean and European companies. As it is, its Grandpa Over Flowers format has been licensed to NOVA TV in Bulgaria, becoming the first Korean entertainment show to enter Eastern Europe.

Korea, we must be reminded, is also a big buyer of foreign formats.

“Format always works both ways,” Jin noted. “CJ E&M recently re-commissioned Saturday Night Live and Chef in Your Ear, and we are always looking for exceptional creativity to localize for Korean viewers.”

In fact, Jin let known co-development with ESG was a fantastic experience for CJ E&M’s production and creative, having shared a new path of how to materialize a show that can travel. 

“From this, we believe our shows and the methods of execution are stronger than ever, bringing better competitiveness in our product,” Jin continued

“Respect the creativity and effort of others. Try to learn more from each other with integrity. IP theft is still a huge problem, but this is a matter of disrespect. Think of what Meryl Streep said during the Golden Globe Awards, “… disrespect invites disrespect”. CJ E&M’s format strength comes from the respect of this industry.”
– Hwang Jin Woo, Head of Formats at CJ E&M’s Media Content Business

Great product aside, Jin noted two great things as pillars in the process of success: Great execution and great people, of which the latter is by far the better cow to place your bets on. 

“In the formats industry, a good idea has to be followed by great development, well produced, exceptional packaging, and strong distribution arms,” Jin explained. “However, above all, this is a creative business and people are key. With talented and hardworking colleagues, we can always set up greater visions, followed by greater achievements.” 

Cutting out the middle man?

CJ E&M has also launched a new division within their corporation called Global Content Center (GCC), which is their formats hub. Part of the company’s international format strategy, it will be key in its continued expansion into the global market and meet the right partners.

Their vision sees them doing at least three to five co-development projects in the coming years in different markets, whether that means targeting specific territories or a certain genre.

This means that while CJ E&M is still considered an Asian-focused company, the GCC will give them wings to become a truly global format company that goes across borders and works in diverse markets. 

Does this mean the next big Korean format will no longer need a third party formats distribution fella no more?

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