Will the post-pandemic world change the fate of cinema and streaming services?
SEOUL, May 20 (Korea Bizwire) — During the life-changing COVID-19 pandemic, Lee Eun-hee, a 42-year-old office worker in Seoul, created a new pattern of habits regarding her consumption of movies and TV series, like many other people around the world have done it. .
She used to go to the movies once or twice a month before the pandemic.
But now, she loves watching TV series, variety shows, and movies ranging from the latest releases to old favorites on online streaming platforms, like Netflix, with the click of a button from her couch at home.
She often ends up staying up all night to binge-watch hit content, like the global sensation “Squid Game” (2021), across platforms. Even during her commute, she never stops watching the previous night’s TV shows.
She chooses to wait for the films to be available on these services rather than going to the cinemas to watch them.
But in recent weeks, she has dared to break two-year-old habits, as the South Korean government removed most COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, including gathering limits and working hour curfews, from April 18.
“During the pandemic, I was happy with things to do at home, like streaming content online or communicating through social media,” she said.
“But after the distancing rules were lifted and I got immunity to the virus, I try to go out even for a walk in my spare time rather than turn on the TV.”
Lee isn’t the only one stepping away from streaming services and turning to other pleasures or returning to old routines.
Streamers operating in South Korea, which had benefited from an increase in subscribers during the pandemic, suffered a decrease in their monthly active users (MAUs) last month compared to three months earlier when lifting COVID-19 distancing rules.
Industry leader Netflix, which launched its Korean service in 2015, posted 11.5 million MAUs in April, down 7.1% from the 12.4 million seen in January, according to data from local market analysis company IGA Works.
MAUs from Wavve, the No. 2 local streaming platform run by major broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS, fell 11.9% to 4.3 million over the three-month period, while Tving, the online video-on-demand platform operated by CJ ENM, saw its MAUs drop 7.7% to 3.9 million in April from three months earlier.
Disney+, Walt Disney Co.’s content streaming service that landed in South Korea in November last year, saw a 23.7% drop in users to 1.5 million from 2 million during the cited period.
Experts attributed the decrease to Korea’s “emergence from the pandemic phase” and said the wind was blowing the other way.
“A growing number of people left their homes after the lifting of distancing rules,” said cultural critic Ha Jae-keun. “People have been suppressing their thirst for outdoor activities and in-person meetings for about two years.”
On the other hand, the cinema industry, considered one of the biggest victims of the coronavirus, appeared to benefit from the lifting of distancing rules, such as the ban on eating in cinemas and vacation rules. middle seats.
April viewership rose 11.6% to 3.1 million from the previous month, and combined revenue rose 12.6% on the month to 30.4 billion won (23.9 millions of dollars).
Compared to the previous year, total April attendance jumped 29.2% and revenue increased 21.7%.
“Weeks after the lifting of the distancing rules, an increasing number of people no longer worry about virus infection in public places, such as cinemas,” said Hwang Jae-hyun of CGV, one of the main multiplex operators in Korea.
“Theaters will soon return to normal, and people will once again enjoy the atmosphere of an audience and the smell of popcorn in the air two years after the pandemic began.”
But experts have pointed out that it’s too early to say the fast-growing streaming service will be completely out of the spotlight after the pandemic subsides.
“The end of the pandemic will stir up pent-up demand for outdoor activities and bring people back to the movies,” the culture spokesperson said.
“But it’s not easy for people to break completely from their recent habits, as TV streaming has become one of the daily routines as the pandemic has dragged on for two years.”