It’s easy to assume that people in the United States primarily enjoy media and content based there. However, both in the States and other Western countries, a new wave of viewership has been on the rise, and it’s that of imported media. Foreign content consumption in the U.S has risen dramatically since 2019. And the craving for diverse media isn’t going anywhere.
The demand for more non-US origin shows, music, movies, and other media continues to grow among U.S. audiences. As a result, the entertainment industry must be prepared to provide loads of foreign content, diverse media choices, and assume the responsibility of spreading authentic cultural awareness if it wants to live up to consumers’ high expectations in the future.
The relatively recent wave of South Korean media, in particular, is taking the entertainment industry in the U.S. by storm. In further detail, let’s discuss this, the history of importing media, and the future for foreign content in the U.S.
The History of Importing Media
When we say importing media, we simply mean media from different countries. You can also think of imported media as foreign content. With that in mind, the U.S. has been in the business of importing media for quite some time now.
There’s no shortage of imported media in the U.S, from hit British television shows like Peaky Blinders, and epic anime like Death Note, to visually stunning video games created by foreign video game giants like Nintendo and Sony.
The first foreign feature film aired in the U.S. was a French Film titled “Queen Elizabeth” on July 12, 1912. In addition, foreign television shows were available in the U.S. in the early years, but they weren’t heavily advertised and promoted like they are today.
The entertainment industry has since become much more technologically advanced and culturally diverse. This has significantly influenced how and what content is consumed.
For instance, we’re in the age of streaming. Streaming giants like Netflix have given us a new, convenient way to watch our favorite shows and movies. They even have an entire genre dedicated to international TV shows, many of which are their own original productions.
Now, let’s explore the recent Korean entertainment explosion in the U.S.
The Recent Korean Entertainment Explosion
How much have you heard about K-pop, K-dramas, or Hallyu? If you aren’t familiar, K-pop is Korean pop music, K-dramas are Korean drama television series, and Hallyu refers to the global popularity of South Korean culture.
Korean culture isn’t just taking the U.S by storm, but it’s also making waves in other countries like India, Iraq, and Egypt. K-pop groups like BTS and EXO, and Korean television shows like Squid Game and Strangers From Hell, are just a few forces behind South Korean culture’s global popularity.
Following the wild international popularity of K-pop groups, Western media companies took some measured risks, pouring money and advertising into their K-content. This recent Korean entertainment explosion is best exemplified by the popularity of the K-drama Squid Game. Squid Game is the first Korean drama to hit #1 on Netflix. Viewers can’t stop talking about the show’s creativity, K-drama excellence, cultural commentary, and gameshow format.
There are challenges with imported media, though. For example, a TikTok user fluent in Korean picked apart Squid Game’s translations/localization inconsistencies and how they affect the perception of the show. There are also some concerns with labor exploitation and what it means for workers if U.S.-based entertainment companies decide to take their productions overseas.
Addressing these concerns and looking for opportunities to improve will be crucial to the future of foreign content in the U.S.
The Future of Imported Media
It’s clear that K-dramas, K-pop, as well as J-dramas/J-pop and C-dramas will continue to grow in international popularity. However, there are some additional points to consider when looking at what the future holds for imported media.
The continued rise of streaming
Streaming services aren’t going anywhere. Because streaming services like Netflix and HBO are where many people watch their foreign shows and movies, they’ll also need to meet the demand for foreign content.
They’ll likely do this by using algorithms and machine learning to gather data on the most popular content, what people like to watch, and why. Then, they’ll use what they learn about their users to decide what kind of content to produce and provide on their platform.
With Korean content in particular, Netflix will definitely look at the data surrounding the success of Squid Game to make strategic decisions and marketing campaigns for their future K-drama endeavors.
More cultural awareness and accuracy
The hope is to have more cultural awareness and accuracy in imported media in the future. As stated above, there are concerns about the translation and localization of foreign content. There are cultural inaccuracies in foreign films and shows as well.
Suppose the entertainment industry in the U.S. is to respect and represent various cultures, offer their movies, shows, and other media in the future. In that case, they must do it accurately and with the utmost awareness. Therefore, making better translations available and other efforts to improve cultural understanding and accuracy in foreign content will be prioritized.
More foreign content in the video game industry
The future of imported media will include the video game industry. In the past, Japanese games like Final Fantasy, Danganronpa and Pokemon were huge global successes. Over the past year, the Chinese game Genshin Impact has taken off and inspired a giant TikTok-based fandom.
With the popularity of streaming platforms like Twitch, and eSports gaining recognition, foreign video games will certainly not be far behind. Experts say that eSports, part of the $134 billion video game industry, are “set to continue dynamic growth in value, viewership, and investment.”
We’ll likely see the growing interest in games from Japan and China intersect with the increasing popularity of video-game live streaming and eSports soon, presenting a unique opportunity in importing media.
From French films in the early 20th century to British TV and music, to anime and K-dramas, the States have a long history of importing media. Although the entertainment industry will evolve each year, it’s safe to say that foreign content will remain a significant part of it.
What are your thoughts on imported media? Do you think we’ll see more break-out foreign shows in 2022? Do let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!