China and South Korea: Tech and Media Powerhouses

Most of us are reasonably aware that China’s and South Korea’s media and tech industries are global forces to be reckoned with and growing at astonishing rates. But just how big are they?

With its 1.4 billion mobile phone users, China now counts 500 million inhabitants that use their smartphones to go online. And while most of the world doesn’t go a day without using Facebook, Google or Amazon, in China, the ‘Big 3’ are Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Each of these three companies serves close to a billion users with messaging apps, social networks, information and entertainment content and e-commerce services.

A little over a thousand miles away is South Korea, home of Samsung, the world’s top smartphone manufacturer and the company that lays claim to 70% of the global VR market.South Korea also boasts the world’s fastest Internet speeds and highest levels of internet penetration.

Given such numbers, those in the tech industry and in the increasingly intertwined media and entertainment industries ignore these Asian powerhouses at their peril.

To provide a deeper dive into these very active markets, CMF Trends released two reports (see the links at the end of the article) that focus on the state of the media and entertainment industries of South Korea and China respectively.

Collaborating with Chinese companies: children TV series, documentaries and tech

It has now been more than fifteen years since China joined the WTO (World Trade Organization). Since then, the country has significantly opened up to international media production.

It is worth noting, however, that although big strides have been made in terms of foreign involvement in media production, requirements such as content approvals from a state regulatory body are a reality in China along with a maximum quota of 30% placed on television production originating outside of the country.

Nevertheless, there are several Canadian success stories to point to in the Chinese market.

Companies in Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax have completed licensing deals for children’s programming and animation with broadcasters such as China’s national television network CCTV (Central China Television) and online platforms such as Youku and iQiyi.

Another example is Montreal’s EyeSteel Film which, for the past decade, has been collaborating with Chinese companies on documentaries such as Up The Yangtze (2007), Last Train Home(2009) and China Heavyweight (2012).

In the world of high-tech hardware, China is also a growing force, with more than 200 companies producing advanced VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) headsets, handsets and kiosks/terminals for use in retail environments as well as cultural and education institutions. And they often sell their products at price points that are far below those of other manufacturers.

South Korea: high-tech and pop culture exports

Across the water, another high-tech haven can be found in South Korea, where strong government support of the VR and AR industries is manifest in Seoul’s high-tech hub, Digital Media City.

Such investments have long been part of South Korea’s larger export strategy. Take the global “Gangnam Style” phenomenon of 2012 for example. To most of us, it seemed like a novelty song with catchy video featuring a distinctive dance later mimicked by hundreds of millions in nightclubs and at parties around the world.

But, in actual fact, popular culture is another sector of the South Korean economy that has been carefully planned and promoted by the government since the mid 1990s. Billions in government support have been injected into the country’s pop music, game, film and TV industries as part of the “Hallyu” (Korean Wave) initiative, an official program to create and export Korean ‘cool’. And Hallyu has worked. South Korea’s annual revenues generated by pop culture exports now exceed US$5 billion.

For a closer look at these two markets, here are in-depth reports you can download for free:

Leora Kornfeld
So far in life, Leora has been a record store clerk, a CBC radio host, a Harvard Business School case writer, a blogger and a crossword puzzle clue. Currently she’s a media and technology consultant, working with clients in the US and Canada.
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