Guide: K-Drama Streaming Subscriptions
In the age of online streaming, more and more options on how to watch K-Dramas are appearing. With more choices, though, comes confusion. Which platform is better? Is there a difference between monthly and annual plans besides how often you pay? Are subscriptions even worth it, or is it better to just get a free account for every platform? Questions like these can be difficult to answer, especially when each platform’s subscription page is vague with their description of each plan.
So, to make the decision process a little easier, we’ve broken down your options for the three major streaming services: DramaFever, Viki, and the newly-created Kocowa.
One of the most well-known K-Drama streaming services available in the West, DramaFever was purchased by SoftBank in late 2014, then by Warner Bros. in early 2016. The company also has partnerships with other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes.
DramaFever has the largest library of shows, offering over 13,000 episodes from 60 different companies across 12 countries. If you’re looking for a service that offers not only Korean shows, but also Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese dramas, DramaFever may be right up your alley.
Notable Shows Available on DramaFever
Goblin: The Lonely and Great God, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, The Bride of the Water God, Temperature of Love
With a free account, viewers can watch most of the content within DramaFever’s library with ads. Certain episodes, series, or movies may be listed as Premium Only, which means that you can only view them with a paid subscription. New episodes are usually released to Premium users first, which means free accounts won’t get access to them until at least a week after they air, if not longer. However, if you’re looking to watch a couple episodes to pass the time or want to try out the platform before committing to a subscription, DramaFever’s format usually allows you to do that.
Member - $4.99/month
This is DramaFever’s monthly-billed option. With this subscription, you’ll receive ad-free access to their whole library in HD quality, including Premium-Only new episodes and movies. You’ll also get access to DramaFever’s exclusive titles. Casting abilities are also available with the base subscription.
Superstar - $49.99/year
Coming out to $4.16/month, DramaFever’s annually-billed option gets all the perks of the Member subscription plan, plus offline viewing capabilities, the opportunity to vote for upcoming shows, and invitations to exclusive events. For people who are travelling or frequently without WiFi access, the Superstar plan’s offline capabilities may be worth the annual charge.
Launched in 2010, Viki is most commonly known for their fan-created subtitles and active community. They were acquired by Japanese e-commerce and internet company Rakuten in 2013 and now boast around 35 million active monthly users worldwide. Like DramaFever, Viki also has partnerships with other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes.
Shows on Viki have been subtitled in over 200 languages, with their viewers tuning in from over 190 countries. Viki also has a selection of non-Korean dramas, however it isn’t quite as comparable to DramaFever’s selection.
Notable Shows Available on Viki
While You Were Sleeping, Suspicious Partner, W, Queen for Seven Days
Like DramaFever, Viki’s free account lets users access some of the platform’s content with ads. New episodes, as well as certain series and movies, are marked for paid subscribers only. However, for casual viewers or people just looking for a sample, a free account is the perfect solution.
Viki Pass - $4.99/month or $49.99/year
If you want access to (almost) every video Viki has to offer, the Viki Pass is your ticket. Watch anything the instant it’s added to their library in full HD with no ads. The only videos that the standard Viki Pass won’t get you are the Kocowa-exclusive episodes and series. New subscribers will also get access for the first 30 days absolutely free, so you can get a feel for the paid experience without committing any of your hard-earned cash.
Viki Pass Plus (with Kocowa) - $9.99/month or $99.99/year
This is a new subscription option for Viki. The way their website explains it is a little confusing, but the Viki Pass Plus subscription essentially unlocks the Kocowa-exclusive episodes available on the Viki platform. According to their website, that’s over 14,000 hours of additional content. However, the Viki Pass Plus subscription DOES NOT give you a Kocowa subscription. It simply unlocks all of the content on Viki’s site. So if there’s a show that’s on Kocowa, but not on Viki, you still won’t be able to view it without a Kocowa subscription. If you’re looking to stay with Viki, but want to watch everything in their library, this is the subscription you’ll want.
The newcomer to the K-Drama streaming game, Kocowa—which is short for Korean Contents Wave—just launched in July, making it the newest player in an already competitive space. Normally, jumping into the industry would be difficult, to say the least, but this particular service has some major names behind it that make it an almost unbeatable force from the very beginning.
Kocowa is owned by Korean Content Platform (KCP), a Los Angeles-based company that was founded in November 2016. KCP is a joint venture between SBS, KBS, and MBC, which means Kocowa may become the go-to source for shows from those three companies.
Notable Shows Available on Kocowa
Weekly Idol, Running Man (New Episodes), Law of the Jungle (New Episodes), The Master Key
With a free account, viewers can watch a limited selection of shows with ads. This collection includes shows like Descendants of the Sun, Wanna City, Fight My Way, Secret Garden, Pinnochio, and many more.
Daily Membership - $0.99/day
Have a day off that you know you can dedicate just to binging all the latest shows, but are too busy to consider getting a month- or year-long subscription? Kocowa’s daily option is a perfect fit. You get the full HD, no ads experience that the longer memberships have, but only pay for one day. Great for the occasional bingers or those who are never quite sure when they’ll get their next day off.
Monthly Membership - $6.99/month
Basically the same as DramaFever and Viki’s base monthly plans, Kocowa’s monthly membership gives viewers ad-free access with a free trial period. For the monthly plan, viewers get a one-month free trial.
Annual Membership - $69.99/year
Kocowa’s annual membership is very similar to their monthly membership with only a few changes. Instead of the 30-day trial period, annual members get two months at a discounted price, though Kocowa doesn’t specify what the discount is. Annual members also get a surprise gift, though what kind of gift is unclear.