Online broadcasters share their passion with viewers
▶ Cho Yong-seok of Bears Live Provided by Mr. Cho
In an apartment in Mangu-dong, Seoul, last week, Jung Young-jin, 31, a freelance reporter for MBC, began the broadcast of his live Internet program.
He introduced himself as Sa Gong-dal, a fake name appropriate for a cartoon character, and said, “I just returned from the United States where I was trying to resolve North Korea’s nuclear problems.”
More than 2,000 viewers have added Mr. Jung’s channel, Real Time News or RTN, to their favorites list on afreeca, the Web site that hosts the show, he said. Mr. Jung is a “broadcast jockey,” a provider of “user created content,” especially video, on the Internet. His popular show came about almost by accident, however.
After graduating from college, Mr. Jung tried twice to join MBC as a regular employee, but to no avail. Instead, he ran an Internet shopping mall for two years. However, he did not give up on becoming a reporter and, in January, took a test to become a freelance reporter for a morning program on MBC. To prepare for that test, from December he launched his Internet broadcasts on the site, which is operated by Nowcom.
“I can practice my speech this way,” Mr. Jung said. “I wanted to practice speaking clearly. I could do it in front of a wall, but it works better this way.”
Now he logs onto the site each night and broadcasts for one or two hours. He waits until 20 or more viewers log on to the channel before he begins. “It is boring if there aren’t many viewers. That number of viewers ― 20 ― is suitable for chatting,” he said. Internet users can download free software from the site, with which they can view and broadcast programs.
▶ Jung Young-jin of RTN By Ahn Yoon-soo
Mr. Jung reads news items from time to time, but mostly debates topical issues with viewers or makes outrageous jokes, which he said a number of listeners take seriously.
“If I read news all the time, it is not fun,” Mr. Jung said.
Many channels on the afreeca site retransmit existing TV programs, but there is also a relatively small number of user-created programs similar to Mr. Jung’s.
On Sept. 16, thousands of baseball fans logged on to watch a crucial game between the Doosan Bears and the Kia Tigers, to determine which team would enter the national league playoffs. While the fans were watching the real time Internet broadcast, one man was calling the plays and chatting with fans over the Internet connection simultaneously.
Cho Yong-seok, a 21-year-old student, is the producer, commentator and cameraman of the Bears Live program. Besides his play-by-play descriptions, Mr. Cho sets up two video cameras to broadcast the game, prepares graphic materials including a scoreboard and players’ lists and records, and replies to comments by viewers via computer.
As there are only three cable television channels that screen baseball games during the season, and teams with more sponsorship are televised more often than other teams, fans cannot always access TV broadcasts of their favorite team. This is where Mr. Cho comes in. A loyal Doosan Bears fan, he sits in the press box at the ballpark to broadcast Doosan Bears games when they are not televised, and fans access the Bears Live channel from their computers.
When there is a game, Mr. Cho televises the event for more than four hours: from before the game through the actual play and break and an after-game round-up. “There is no time out. I am exhausted after a game,” he said.
Mr. Cho’s program is the most popular baseball broadcast on afreeca, according to Nowcom. At its peak, the show was watched by 10,000 users.
Mr. Cho began real time broadcasting of Doosan Bears games when he was in high school. He initially broadcast on radio but advances in technology allowed him to begin real time Internet broadcasting last year.
▶ Kim Do-hyung of Juinjang.com Courtesy of Mr. Kim
As seen on both men’s programs, the most important characteristic of these user-created television broadcasts is that there are no rules. What they transmit is entirely up to the broadcast jockeys. Mr. Jung shaves and takes phone calls during his live broadcast. When he needs to go to the bathroom, he simply hangs his passport photograph in front of his Web camera.
There is also no political correctness required on the shows. Mr. Cho of Doosan Bears Live unilaterally supports his favorite team. If fans of opposing teams complain, the software allows him to restrict their access to his show.
These unconventional qualities of the shows are part of what attracts viewers. Kim Do-hyung of Juinjang.com, an Internet television shopping channel, said, “First of all, it is extraordinary and fun. There is no script. Existing television channels are standardized and have rules that limit the way of talking and use of vocabulary, but we can show what network televisions can’t.”
Mr. Kim sells interior decorating products and miscellaneous items on his channel. The popularity of his broadcast led to sales of 100 million won ($105,500) of products in one busy month.
A few months ago, Mr. Kim went to Europe during the Germany World Cup 2006 and broadcast scenes of crowds cheering in the streets. Thousands of people downloaded the video file from Web portals including Naver. Even after most Korean network television crews left Europe following Korea’s loss to Switzerland, Mr. Kim stayed and continued to televise the street atmosphere after Korea’s last game. Those broadcasts were well received by Internet viewers, he said.
“This is an alternative medium,” he said. “It can show the individuality of each broadcast jockey. The scope and content is infinite.”
The broadcasts are also interactive, unlike most network television programs. Viewers can log in and out of the channels and chat with other viewers and the broadcasters.
“I can see the viewers’ reactions and this makes the broadcast more interesting than regular network broadcasts,” Mr. Jung said. “I feel attached to it. It is a little addictive as well.”
The broadcast jockeys are passionate about their shows even when they don’t receive any financial reward for their time.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t fun,” Mr. Cho said.
In addition to being allowed in the press box at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, the Doosan Bears’ home ground, several other teams allow Mr. Cho to use the press box in their home stadiums when they play against Doosan.
Last weekend, Mr. Cho flew to Miyazaki, Japan, to televise a friendly game between the Bears and a Japanese team. He paid for his ticket himself.
“Rather than doing it for the general public, I want it to be a channel for Doosan fans,” Mr. Cho said.
▶ Cho Yong-seok’s Bears Live program on the afreeca Web site.
An average of 700 channels broadcast simultaneously on the afreeca site and about 40,000 programs are created each day.
The age of the broadcasters ranges from children to adults in their 40s, but those in their 20s make up the majority.
Game-related programs account for about 40 percent of the Web site’s content, music channels make up 25 percent and entertainment-related programs account for 15 percent.
The programs can only be seen live, meaning visitors cannot download previous programs. About 40,000 people log onto the site every day.
The afreeca site is different to other sites including Pandora TV, from which people can download video files. Pandora TV, which is also based in Korea, had more than 100 million hits during the Chuseok holiday period between Oct. 5 and Oct. 8.
by Limb Jae-un