DramaFever Calls it Quits

It has been a nice nine years knowing this streaming service. It was one of the first legally offering Korean dramas and they even collaborated with some of the bigger fansub groups to bring us great English subtitles. The original DramaFever was nice and open and reached out to bloggers, etc. for promotions and other things. Then the site started growing. They offered subscriptions and affiliate links for advertising on your site. Then came the infamous partnerships that would lead to it’s downfall.

DramaFever was acquired by Warner Brothers in 2016. Did they grow bigger or become more awesome with this? Sadly, no. Then SBS, MBC, and KBS decided to make their own streaming service called KOCOWA which launched in 2017. Besides their own streaming site, the majority of the big 3’s dramas were only made available via Viki with DramaFever getting them much, much later if at all. But that’s okay as DramaFever was at least able to grab up some bigger dramas from Korean cable.

Does the shut down of DramaFever surprise me? Not at all. It honestly can’t with the way things have been going over the years. While Viki is adding tons of new dramas, DramaFever is only adding a select few each season. I was happy that they were getting Chinese and Taiwanese dramas and Korean cable dramas that weren’t necessarily available on Viki, but they weren’t getting them in spades. I honestly have been wondering how long DramaFever could compete, especially with Netflix adding more content and with the birth of the conglomerate known ad KOCOWA. It was only a matter of time.

What really surprises me is the swiftness and no warning to users/subscribers beyond them no longer updating currently licensed and streaming shows. On Monday, the site still existed. On Tuesday, the site was taken down and replaced with a splash page saying they had to make the hard decision to shutdown and they will be reaching out to subscribers and issuing refunds.

DramaFever hasn’t always been the best when it comes to communication in recent years. They used to be great at reaching out about changes. When they were changing their subscription models, they reached to the original subscribers saying they would offer the same old rate since the subscribers were with them from the beginning. This year, without due notice from the DramaFever team themselves, they increased the original subscription cost that was not supposed to change. I got this notice from PayPal with no explanation from DramaFever. Granted, the change was not enormous, but you should let your customers know what is going on. I was also a bit annoyed that I didn’t get any notice about the affiliate program being shut down. I didn’t make any money from it really, but just the notice that it was happening was nice. I at least heard from YesAsia when their affiliate program was closing.

Variety wrote up a great article talking about how the Korean drama scene’s increased popularity started driving up licensing prices. Again, not surprising. What I was surprised to see is that they blamed Netflix and Amazon for this. Netflix, I get, but Amazon driving up Korean drama pricing? Um…Amazon does not carry that many dramas. It’s main source of Korean drama was seriously a DramaFever channel. Yes, they have Korean dramas outside of that, but not super popular ones. The majority of kdrama content was mostly less popular web dramas. So, I am not sure about Amazon’s effect on this licensing thing.

The article also mentions the merger that happened between Warner Brothers and AT&T. These two are also partnering with HBO to launch a new media service sometime in late 2019. If this is going to happen, is it really not feasible to let your subscribers and loyal users be able to continue enjoying all types of dramas on DramaFever until the launch? That being said, with the complained of how expensive licensing was getting, will this new platform even carry Asian dramas and movies?

Working in the world of publishing and literary magazines, I do see stuff like this often. Magazines and presses have folded with no notice and writers were left in the lurch with books, etc. pending. This has also happened with other Asian media streaming sites. I don’t think MViBO ever officially announced their cessation and just stopped updating the site. TV Taiseng or whatever it was called went bust and subscribers I don’t think ever got refunds.

The sad part is that they had currently airing dramas fans were looking forward to new episodes of. Will these dramas be picked up by Viki or another site? I will try to do some research and scour for other sources, but it looks like drama fans will just be left in the lurch for now.

My final thoughts can be summed up by Eru’s song “I Hate You” featuring Junhyung of Highlight. Check out they lyric translation from Popgasa Kpop Lyrics. I think it’s fitting in this scenario.

7 comments

  • An insightful piece, thanks NeeNee. ❤ I'm not a DF user coz it's not available in my region, so I had no idea that things were visibly going downhill for them. This definitely could have been handled better, from the customers' perspective, especially since this isn't a case of them going bust and disappearing, but a case of a parent company shutting down a business channel. Disappointing and sad turn of events, but I do believe that fans will continue to love their dramas, even so. Fighting to all!

  • Thank you for this post. I’m heartbroken. Viki is good but they don’t have Goblin!

  • I’m thoroughly pissed with how they handled this shutdown. Even stores give you ample notice that they are going out of business. It made no sense that they collected renewals, especially from their yearly subscribers in the last two months. They didn’t give their customers time to remove any data that they didn’t want going over to WarnerMedia (sure, that was on purpose); however, if there is ever a data breech, I’m all for a class action suit on this. I have no intentions of ever subscribing with their future streaming site. I don’t have cable; I don’t want cable and will not get cable just to get a few dramas that they may/may not have. Viki and Kocowa obviously benefited from their shutdown the most. Those sites were nightmarish to access at times, I heard. I do have Kocowa and very happy with it. But now I have a fear for Crunchyroll who is also owned by ATT/WB. If they do the same thing there, we might have a revolt on our hands! Or should I say THEY will?!

  • I am so shocked about this as I have been loyal fan of Drama Fever until recently this year when they were taking so long to get some of the drama’s I really wanted to watch.
    Thanks for the info if not I would not have known that they shutdown so abruptly. I use viki ever so often but even there I sometimes feel their subs are not as great as the ones from Drama Fever and the quality of streamed dramas were so much better on DF.

    I am really sad though, I cant access Kocowa in London so I guess I only have sites like VIKI who have recently added another subscription layer to their model which makes me so irritated that I dont even bother with it most times.

  • Im sad about DF.. one of the first OG websites I used to watch kdramas. Then I started using Viki. But when they both started doing subscriptions I decided not to go that route. Instead I used YouTube a lot more. I actually found out about DF through a fb group. ㅠ.ㅠ

  • Everyone else has said pretty much what I would’ve griped about except I’m sure others, like me, were probably also working through a long “to watch” list of movies and older dramas that was saved in DramaFever’s queue. Had they notified us of the pending shutdown, I could’ve at least made a list of all the dramas in my “to watch” queue. But I was counting on DF keeping track of them. 😕

    • Right. It would be nice to find an archived library to remember what was there and what you planned on watching/finishing.

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