Faced with the twin threats of YouTube and Netflix, Korean OTT providers are joining forces to create a single platform with more than 13 million subscribers.

SK Telecom’s Oksusu service and Pooq, the operation jointly run by the country’s three terrestrial TV broadcasters – MBC, SBS and KBS – will be merged, it was announced last week.

Observers expect the new offering will present a credible challenge to Netflix, which has far fewer subscribers but which has produced what one called “a catfish effect” in the local OTT ecosystem.

In September last year, for example, SK Telecom announced new video search and content recommendation features based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. “We don’t know which curation algorithm Netflix uses,” said Lee Jong-min, head of the Media Technology R&D Center at SK Telecom, “but I’m confident that our recommendation technology is on par with or even better than Netflix’s.”

Only a few weeks ago, Netflix strengthened its position in the market through a tie-up with telecommunication carrier LG U+ which will see users of U+tv, LG U+’s IPTV set-top box, able to access the service via their remote control.

The ambitions of those behind the new platform are not limited to the domestic sphere, however, as they plan to tap into the interest in Korean culture – the hallyu – which has spread beyond the region to the west. The internet is currently buzzing with talk of Kingdom, an original Netflix series set in medieval Korea due to launch later this month.

“We plan to attract large-scale investment and utilize it for content production,” an SK Telecom official said. “We will take part in global competition based on differentiated original content.”

Sourced from Business Korea, Netflix, Aju Business Daily, Korea Joongang Daily; additional content by WARC staff