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K7 notes Korea change for TV formats at MIPTV

K7 Media is reporting a surge in innovative Korean mystery reality formats, and has engaged in conversations with Korean creators to understand the rationale behind this shift.

At MIPTV 2024, three standout Korean formats were showcased – Apartment 404 from CJ ENM, Still Alive from Something Special, and Bloody Game from MBC – marking a departure from the country’s signature light-hearted singing competitions and tapping into the global audience’s fascination with mystery and psychological intrigue.

The remarkable success of The Masked Singer has firmly established Korea as a global format powerhouse. However, a new trend is emerging as Korean creators pivot towards mystery-meets-reality genres, captivating audiences with complex narratives and intellectual challenges.

Bloody Game (MBC): Building on the success of the Norwegian adaptation Spillet, Bloody Game has achieved phenomenal ratings, particularly among younger viewers aged 20-49. Described as a “reality within a reality” and likened to a crossover of Squid Game and Parasite, this format has captured global interest. Jean Hur, MBC’s Director of Format Sales and Co-Development, shared that Bloody Game is poised to become a global-scale format, with significant international interest following its MIPTV presentation.

Apartment 404 (CJ ENM): This format places celebrity residents in a mysterious apartment building, challenging them to uncover truths behind real incidents from different eras. Producer Cheol-min Jeong emphasises the format’s unique blend of past real-life events with detective storytelling, engaging viewers with a captivating hybrid narrative. Featuring K-pop star Jennie from BLACKPINK and TV host Jae-suk Yoo, Apartment 404 has already made waves, entering Amazon Prime Video’s Top 10 list in 17 countries within two days of its release.

Still Alive (Something Special): Originating during the pandemic, this format features contestants deciphering an undefined “death rule” in a mansion setting. Praised for its lighter, black comedy approach, Still Alive has garnered significant popularity, particularly among millennials and Gen Z viewers. The format has been optioned by German production company MoveMe and Catalonia-based firm Veranda, showcasing its international appeal.

This new wave of Korean formats reflects a growing trend towards intellectually stimulating and suspenseful storytelling in the reality genre. Talking to K7 Media, Sehee Jang, CJ ENM’s Head of Global Marketing/PR, notes, mystery reality shows resonate exceptionally well with domestic audiences, particularly younger viewers. This trend is evident in the success of High School Mystery Club and Sixth Sense.

Jean Hur of MBC added that the success of Bloody Game has altered perceptions about survival reality shows in Korea, leading to increased investment and new productions like The Community, which explores diverse political and social beliefs among contestants.

K7’s APAC, Middle East and Africa manager Trang Nguyen said: “The success of the Norwegian version of Bloody Game marks a turnaround of just over two years – half the time it took The Masked Singer to go from its Korean debut in 2015 to its US premiere on Fox in 2019. With The Genius Game coming to the UK, The Penthouse Game introduced to international buyers, and Netflix launching The 8 Show, a scripted drama that plays out like an unscripted version would, it’s clear that Korea is leading the way in both volume and quality of shows in this new genre.”

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