It begins. On Tuesday, Crunchyroll added a Korean Drama streaming service to the company’s stable of content. The new service, KDrama.com, is currently available to North American Crunchyroll subscribers. Korean television stations KBS, MBC, SBS and CJ E&M will provide content for the channel.
This is the first major move for Crunchyroll since it was purchased by the Chernin Group in December. If you recall, Chernin Group executive Peter Chernin stated that their plan was to “grow the anime vertical as well as launch new channels in different genres.”
In short, they purchased Crunchyroll partly for the platform. While they do continue to maintain the anime arm in Crunchyroll’s core, they’re using Crunchyroll’s infrastructure to nab other, similar types of shows. To see them branch out to K-Dramas seems like a natural move, in this light. Crunchyroll offered K-Dramas through their service for a number of years before this, which means that much of the legwork in the form of relationships, licensing, and the like was either done or attainable.
Splitting to a secondary service, though, creates one important advantage. A service solely for K-Dramas kills the “anime-ness” that comes from Crunchyroll, as a whole. While Crunchyroll is a fantastic site with strong content, it’s clear that the website focuses on a certain demographic. Specifically, it speaks to a the younger set: thirteen to twenty-four year old males, who are entrenched in anime fandom. And, for what Crunchyroll is, that’s perfectly okay! For fans of K-Dramas, though, this is a definite potential deal breaker.
Regardless, as of December, All Things D reported that Crunchyroll has nearly 200,000 paying customers, with the average subscription costing just under $7 per month. This fee is before the various consignment deals, affiliate sales, merchandise revenues, and profits from advertisements that inevitably do come with the operation of Crunchyroll as a whole. Likewise, we have no clue about how subscriptions will be handled across sites in the Crunchyoll network. These unknowns could affect the general subscriber population, depending on whether they see the offerings as an acceptable deal for the price.
In an ideal situation, we’d see a setup similar to Crunchyroll’s current Premium Membership tier. Premium members are given a discount on the entire slate of content for the service, thus lowering the financial investment for those who want to view both the latest K-Drama and anime titles. Should Crunchyroll approach this method, we would likely see a degree of overlap between the two sites, which consists of a certain population of the current Premium subscriber-base at Crunchyroll. This would help to increase revenues and push up subscriber counts for both services, while maintaining a standard of quality expected from two independent content arms.
At this point, it’s far too early to even begin to speculate on the fate of either site. KDrama.com is still in beta, despite having iOS and Android apps available. Because of this, we haven’t heard official pricing plans for the new service, nor have we seen plans for rollout outside of North America. It will be interesting to revisit the topic after the official launch, though, to see whether strategy is working to drum up interest outside of the current customer-base, while maintaining the core customer-base from Crunchyroll.