To say that drama is a must-have TV genre is an understatement. Scripted shows are driving prime-time TV around the world like never before. Hit dramas such as HBO’s Game of Thrones, Netflix’s House of Cards and ABC’s The Walking Dead bring a buzz unmatched by any other type of show. Even for channels that aren’t typically identified by their drama, high-quality shows can help enhance their reputations.

Drama is important for viewers and for the reputation of a broadcaster globally. The audience in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are watching Korean dramas such as My Love from The Star, Flower in the Prison, Boys Over Flower, The Queen of Office and countless more K-dramas. Korean soaps are now making inroads in Latin America, a region that has its own prolific drama-production business. Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia and China are watching Turkish period dramas – 20 Minutes, Forget Me Not and more. Most dramas are an international attraction with no barriers to race, language or religion. In fact, these are the elements that fascinate viewers in other regions. Other audiences in Germany are turning into RTL II for a look at Bollywood glamour. Across the Middle East and Africa, Filipino fantasy series and Malaysian soap are popping up on television schedules. There’s even a Singaporean-Malaysian drama being considered for a U.S. adaptation.

Hit by Hallyu
The export success of South Korea’s television dramas has spawned a hard-selling world of branded entertainment that uses product placement to push everything from smartphones to lipsticks.The so-called Hallyu (Korean Wave) of television shows and pop music has long conquered most of Asia and, in recent years, found fans in the Middle East, Latin America and North Africa. The vast audiences opened stealth marketing opportunities that have become distinctly less stealthy as competition has intensified. South Korean firms now spend millions of dollars ensuring lovers in popular soap operas confess their feelings via Samsung smartphones, kiss in Hyundai cars and move into a house equipped with a giant LG TV. The power of the most popular dramas to launch new trends and boost existing ones was displayed by the recent production My Love from the Star – an unlikely love story between a top female movie star and a 400-year old alien disguised as a human.

The SBS television show was a huge hit, especially in China where it triggered a craze for Korean-style fried chicken and beer, the favoured comfort food of the show’s heroine – played by Gianna Jun. The main characters talked and sent texts on Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones, or chatted via the Line mobile app made by Naver, Seoul’s top portal. Jun’s character used lotions and lipsticks made by Amorepacific, the South’s largest cosmetics fi rm. Supporting characters had an insatiable taste for mini-desserts made by CJ – the country’s top food company. The exposure clearly pays off. Amorepacific stated that sales of the skincare products and lipsticks used by Jun surged 75 per cent and 400 per cent respectively, largely thanks to booming sales in China. “In the past, PPL [product placement] on South Korean TV shows boosted domestic sales only,” the company said. “But we’ve recently seen it having an immediate and widespread impact in Asia, especially in China.” Amorepacific’s overseas sales grew 28 per cent in 2013, boosted by a 29 per cent expansion in China.

More than 90 percent of product placement deals on South Korean soap operas involve domestic firms, but foreign companies are also being attracted by the lure of improved sales in a key regional market. In My Love From the Star, a pair of US$625 Jimmy Choo shoes worn by Jun sold out across Asia within days. Even more dramatically, it only took a rumour – the brand name never appeared – that the lipstick Jun used in one episode was from Yves St Laurent to cause a similar run on that product. Neither Jimmy Choo nor YSL had even struck a deal to have their products in the show. Mercedes-Benz did, and the German carmaker saw sales of its models featured in the show spike. “Many companies now know if their products are featured in our shows, Asian viewers, especially women, will feel more familiar with their brands – whether on a conscious or unconscious level,” said Kim Yeongseop, an executive producer at SBS.

While details of product placement deals are not disclosed, industry sources say exposure on popular shows costs at least 100 million won (HK$75.8 million) and much more for a hit drama featuring A-list stars with a regional following. The biggest spender of all is Samsung – the world’s largest technology firm by revenue – which sponsors around two-thirds of all home-grown soap operas, said Kim Si-Hyun, head of 153 Production, a major product placement agency in Seoul. “It’s a full package, meaning all visible consumer electronics like smartphones, computers, cameras, air conditioners, TVs and refrigerators are Samsung products, from beginning to end,” Kim said. After entering the new millennium, Korean dramas had begun airing in the Philippines since 2003, starting with GMA Network as the very first network to air Koreanovelas kicking off with Bright Girl; followed by rival network ABS-CBN as the competitor for airing Korean dramas; as well as TV5 and other Free TV networks which they also worked to broadcast Korean dramas through Philippine television.

South Korean dramas are one of the greatest interest of airing foreign programs in the Philippines on its 21st century, which had already aired more than 100 Koreanovelas as of the end of 2014. Most media broadcasters in the Philippines airing Korean dramas are ABS-CBN (with its former sister channel, Studio 23), GMA Network (with its former sister channel QTV), TV5, as well as minor TV networks Net 25, government channel PTV and among others especially IBC. Furthermore, airing Koreanovelas in the Philippines are on-going the process of localisation, which consists the process of program re-dubbing, pre-editing, post-editing and finalisation of the re-production process which had been going on-air at the specific date. Asian dramas have become hits since the 2000s, excluding Japanese dramas. The huge demand from viewers for Asianovelas has prompted Philippine TV stations to import only Korean and Taiwanese dramas.

Top Korean drama series Lovers in Paris, Full House, My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Stairway to Heaven and Coffee Prince were imported and dubbed in the Filipino language, instantly becoming hits. The success of Jewel in the Palace in Korea was also replicated in the Philippines and many other Asian countries. The Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden was also a rating success when it first aired in 2003. Its remake, the Korean Boys Over Flowers, starring Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum, Kim Joon, Kim So Eun and Koo Hye Sun, also succeeded in capturing audiences. It was aired in the Philippines on ABS-CBN from May to August 2009 and became a phenomenal success.