Watcha offers cheaper movie streaming service

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Watcha offers cheaper movie streaming service

Watcha, a Korean film rating and recommendation app, launched a paid video streaming service on Sunday to compete with Netflix, which entered Korea on Jan. 7.

The service, called Watcha Play, costs 4,900 won ($4.07) monthly, about a third cheaper than Netflix subscription fees which range between $7.99 and $11.99 a month.

Existing Watcha users and those who have pre-registered for the service only have to pay an initial fee of 100 won.

“We thought pricing was the most determinant factor behind attracting new customers - in their 20s and 30s, in particular - who consume a lot of VOD content,” said Park Tae-hoon, CEO of Frograms, the start-up that operates the Watcha service.

Watcha Play has secured 4,500 films and 1,500 dramas. About two-thirds of them are foreign content. Park says the company plans to widen the variety of content and provide subtitles in Korean as well as a few foreign languages.

The service will only be available on the web at www.watchaplay.net both on Windows and Mac operating systems without requiring installation of any program, and a smartphone app will become available in April.

Park says the biggest distinction of Watcha is the “best-possible customization capability.”

“We plan to offer the best-quality recommendation service, based on the 240 million ratings data we have gathered so far,” he said.

Launched in 2011, Watcha garnered its potential customers for Watcha Play by offering a service that recommended films to those who have signed up for the app and have rated and left reviews for films they have watched. The more that users have rated, the better results users get.

The entry of Watch Play into the domestic VOD market already dominated by three mobile carriers - SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ - further dwarfs the American giant Netflix, which has spent less than a month here but is already drawing complaints about limited content in Korea.

Out of a total 14,400 titles, only 600 are available in Korea. Netflix’s own well-known shows such as “House of Cards” and other popular shows like “The Walking Dead” are unavailable here due to content licensing issues.

Many viewers were even more disgruntled when Netflix announced two weeks ago that it will take new steps to ban customers from streaming content that is only available outside their own country by using VPNs, proxies and unblocking tools - a practice popular among tech-savvy viewers.

Securing content specifically catering to Korean consumers will be a difficult task for Netflix to address for its sustainable operation in Korea, according to market researcher Counterpoint Research.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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