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Entertainment companies curb the power of producers

Feb 15,2005
Around six years ago, drama producers, or “PDs,” wielded absolute power in the broadcasting industry. To actors and actresses, they were the route to fame and fortune.
If they aspired to be on television again in the next drama series, the actors had to maintain close relations with the PDs. Some people at the time said the relationship was that of master and servant. It is easy to see why scandals between actresses and PDs always hit the headlines.
But times have changed. PDs are no longer kings of the jungle; the tables have been turned with the arrival of television superstars and the increasing role of entertainment companies. With the rise in the status of actors, there is even the belief that once a “name” actor is cast in a drama, the show’s viewing rate will be at least 15 percent.
It is now almost mandatory for PDs to attend the weddings and funerals of stars and their families. They send Christmas cards and make regular phone calls giving seasonal greetings, even to stars at rival broadcasting companies. This desperate gesture can still fail, however, when they are competing against giant entertainment companies, which systematically manage stars.
One PD from Seoul Broadcasting System, or SBS, said that, “These days, PDs are becoming ‘extras’ in dramas.”
Increasingly, entertainment companies are taking over the entire production of a television show; they get “name” actors and popular screenwriters to do the show, and even choose the producer they want.
A good example is DSP Entertainment, which produces “Seip Clover” (Three-leaf Clover), a soap opera on SBS shown every Monday and Tuesday. The company cast Lee Hyo-ri, a popular singer and actor, and hired PD Jang Yong-u, who previously produced the big hits “Sachungi” and “Wangcho.” But when the viewing rate for Seip Clover dropped below 10 percent, it replaced him, something unimaginable five or six years ago.
Even at broadcasting companies, PDs do not have job security due to increased competition from younger producers. According to industry sources, it used to take at least seven years to become the producer of a soap opera after being hired by a broadcaster. To produce a large-scale drama took at least another five years.
“These days, PDs can get a big production after just two years,” said Kim Hyeon-jun, head of a drama team at the Korean Broadcasting System, adding that companies see the need for younger and more creative producers.
However, not many PDs can quit and move to other stations unless they are as popular as Kim Jong-hak, Lee Chang-sun and Lee Jin-seok, currently considered “hot.” For “ordinary” PDs, the good old days are gone.


by Baik Sung-ho


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