Updated K-Drama Streaming Guide
Less than a month ago on October 16, DramaFever announced quite suddenly that the streaming subscription would be shut down permanently. Many drama fans who had been watching DramaFever exclusives or who had active paid subscriptions were thrown into a frenzy at the unforeseen roadblock, including those of us here at The Kraze. Luckily, fans were refunded, but access to exclusive shows such as My ID is Gangnam Beauty, 100 Days My Prince and others has yet to be resolved. Due to this sudden turn of events, we’re back to evaluate the options you have left to get your K-Drama fix.
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. Shows on Viki have been subtitled in over 200 languages, with their viewers tuning in from over 190 countries. In the past year, Viki has been widening its drama repertoire, especially in the realm of the Chinese dramas.
They have also been expanding the number of self-produced shows with many of them starring our favorite K-Pop stars. Viki is also known for being the streaming service with the most authentic subbing experience since it’s the community that often subs episodes, operating under the understanding that drama fans are familiar with Korean culture and mannerisms. For example, words like “oppa,” “noona,” and “hyung” are not translated into their loose English counterparts. For fans that prefer this type of subbing experience, Viki is the best choice.
NOTABLE SHOWS AVAILABLE ON VIKI
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, I Am Not a Robot, The Legend of the Blue Sea
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
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. The main difference noted on the site is that this service also offers early access to all on-air shows, while the standard pass only offers this for select content.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that 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.
Kocowa is owned by Korean Content Platform (KCP), a Los Angeles-based company founded in November 2016. KCP is a joint venture between SBS, KBS, and MBC, which means Kocowa may eventually become the go-to source for shows from those three companies. Though still fairly new to the scene, especially compared to their competitor Viki, Kocowa has been gaining steam, and their pass deal with Viki has also helped the platform gain recognition. Kocowa has a couple of DramaFever-exclusive shows in their library, as well.
As far as subbing goes, Kocowa has a bit of a different method compared to Viki that can easily be seen when watching the same show on both platforms. It’s more focused on translation that would be understandable for just about anyone interested in Korean dramas who may not have much knowledge of speaking mannerisms or common cultural words. The platform opts instead for more literal translations that, to those more familiar with Korean speech, may not seem true to the intended meaning, and it can sometimes be frustrating.
NOTABLE SHOWS AVAILABLE ON KOCOWA
Running Man, Love Temperature, The Heirs, Best Punch, My Sassy Girl
With a free account, viewers can watch a selection of shows with ads. They also offer a service known as “Taste24hr” where fans can view the latest episodes of certain dramas for a 24 hour period before they become locked for paid members.
Daily Membership - $0.99/day
Have a day off that you know you can dedicate 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. It’s 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 Viki’s base monthly plan, 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.
Yes, the behemoth video streaming site has begun to pick up on the Korean entertainment phenomenon. Netflix now offers a surprisingly wide variety of Korean shows, from dramas to variety, and has even begun producing their own exclusives. This option may make sense for fans who already have access to the subscription service and do not want to pay additional money for other streaming platforms. But it is important to note that compared to the previous two options, the library of Korean shows is not as wide, and that other Asian productions such as Chinese and Taiwanese dramas are not as readily available.
NOTABLE SHOWS AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX
Black, YG Strategy Office, Busted, Men on a Mission, Something in the Rain
Netflix does not incorporate ads into their programming like the aforementioned services, and it is possible to get a one month free trial to unlock access to their lineup.
Basic - $7.99/month
The cheapest option offers the use of the service on a single screen in standard definition and downloads to one phone or tablet. If you don’t particularly care for high definition television and do not plan on sharing with anyone else in the home, this should do the job.
Standard - $10.99/month
This is the plan everyone is most familiar with. It offers the service on two screens at a time with videos in HD and downloads on two devices. Standard is probably the best choice in terms of streaming options.
Premium - $13.99/month
This is essentially the standard plan, but everything is doubled. This option also offers Ultra HD, though what that truly entails isn’t really explained on the plan page. This is a good investment if you’re sharing with a big household and need access in many different locations at around the same time.