Rise of IPTV changes film experience

Digital platforms fast increasing market share hae Yoon-seok is an office worker with a 5- and 2-year-old. When Disney's animated film "Frozen" hit local theatres in January, his daughters became part of the craze, wanting to watch it over and over again.

Instead of taking them to the cinema every time, he decided to pay 9,000 won to buy the Internet protocol television (IPTV) version of the movie.

Since May, his girls have watched it well over 20 times.

"The perk is that the kids can watch it whenever and as many times as they wish at home," he said. "It's cheaper, convenient and our kids love it."

Chae is not the only one in the country who paid to watch "Frozen" at home.

As the film became the first animation in Korea to see 10 million viewers, its IPTV version had its own record in its segment, garnering almost 1 million viewers, according to the Korean Film Council.

With IPTV rapidly gaining momentum in Korea with 10 million subscribers, digital film platforms are increasing their market share in the film industry and changing the way people consume entertainment.

Ever since smartphones raised their status from gadget to necessity around 2009, the digital online market, which includes mobile, Web-based platforms and TV channels via IPTV and digital cable networks, has consistently grown at around 20 per cent each year.

The growth of this market, with IPTV taking the largest share, was made possible by the high penetration of high-speed Internet in Korea ― both wireless and wired, industry insiders say.

"The perception of movies is changing rapidly," said Yang So-eun of the Korean Film Council. "With IPTV, people enjoy the convenience of watching films at home."

Two film genres appear to be benefitting most from this change: Animated and R-rated films.

"The main users are families with kids. Because of this target audience, animation films like 'Frozen' are getting more subscribers than the other genres," Yang added.

"Shining Modern History," directed by Yeon Sang-ho ― who went to Cannes with his previous animated film "The King of Pigs" ― is an R-rated animation that opened Thursday. But audiences can't watch it in the theatres. Instead, they can only watch it on IPTV and other digital platforms, making the film one of a kind.

"More and more, people consume content online," said Yeon. "So I thought it was necessary to produce through the digital platform, which can add more creativity, free from limitations."

In the past, it took from a few months to a year for a film to be added on IPTV, which pushed people to go the theatre if they really wanted to watch the film.

Now, the trend is changing. Many films are being released on IPTV at best simultaneously, and at worst, within a week or two after it closes in theatres. The recent films "For the Emperor," "Obsessed" and "Nymphomaniac" were all released on IPTV while showing in theatres.

It is not a coincidence that these films are all R-rated. "Obsessed," in particular, gained more thrust through IPTV than in theatres.

In this watershed moment for the film industry, filmmakers are seeking ways to market both in theatres and on IPTV to cater to their audiences. But all things considered, good-quality films will be successful in both platforms, industry experts say.