This might be the most shocking and saddest news of the year for all drama fans: As of October 16, the American streaming portal Dramafever has shut down without prior notice!
Fans who were in the middle of watching their favorite dramas suddenly only saw a black screen, the app didn’t function anymore and all content suddenly disappeared from Dramafever’s Youtube channel. Everyone was wondering what happened until the following notice appeared on Dramafever’s website:
According to the American entertainment website Variety, Warner Bros. who acquired Dramafever in 2016 stated:
“Today, Warner Bros. Digital Networks will be closing its DramaFever OTT service due to business reasons and in light of the rapidly changing marketplace for K-drama content, a staple of the service’s programming. Warner Bros. Digital Labs, which encompasses more than two-thirds of the DramaFever workforce, will continue operating, serving as the tech engine behind many of WBDN’s operations.”
Variety further reports that 20% of Dramafever’s employees will be laid off.
While Viki and Dramafever where the go-to legal streaming sites for Asian dramas in the past, big players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have also started to offer Asian content as of recently. Furthermore, the three big Korean TV channels KBS, SBS and MBC founded a new streaming portal named “Kocowa” for Korean dramas last year. As a result, Dramafever wasn’t able to obtain as many licenses for Korean dramas as before and the costs for the licenses have risen as well. Variety reports that a drama that costed $800,000 before is now acquired for around $1 million.
The news of Dramafever’s shut down comes at the same time as Warner Bros. announces their future plans though: According to another article from Variety, Warner Bros. will launch their own streaming platform fronted by HBO in late 2019. The goal is to battle giant Netflix. Content from Dramafever will reportedly also be offered through this new streaming site.
However, it remains to be seen if all content from Dramafever will be back and if they will also license as much new Asian content as Dramafever did in the past. Fact is, fans will have to be patient and wait a year to see the outcome.
In my opinion, it wasn’t a wise choice by Warner Bros. to shut down Dramafever, and even less so to do so without warning their viewers. They could at least have finished the broadcast of currently airing shows while not licensing any new ones and warned viewers some months before, so that they would still have time to catch up on shows that they wanted to watch. If their goal was to make Asian drama fans so angry that they could die, then they did an excellent job.
Furthermore, a huge number of fans turned to Asian dramas because they’re so different from American TV. Many drama fans don’t even watch American TV at all. Now Warner Bros. wants exactly those people to subscribe to a streaming platform in the future that will mostly offer American content. I believe Warner Bros. doesn’t have a good understanding of Dramafever’s customers when they thought that was a wise choice.
It appears to me that Warner Bros. is simply greedy for more money. When they shut down smaller streaming platforms and offer their content all in one big platform, they can sell subscriptions at a high price due to the variety of content. This means people who only watch Asian dramas will be forced to also pay for American shows and vice-versa.
And on top of all, the shut down of Dramafever is a huge loss for all Cdrama fans. While it can be expected that subs for Korean dramas will still appear in one or another way (through Kocowa, Viu etc.), Viki and Dramafever were the only streaming sites to license Chinese dramas (I don’t count Netflix here since they only have a tiny number of Cdramas as of now). Dramafever regularly licensed and subtitled new Cdramas, and now that they’re gone, there will be much less Cdramas available wih subtitles.
What is your opinion on that topic?