Can comeback dramas of top actresses like Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo be considered successful with low ratings?

Can the success or failure of a drama be determined only by its domestic ratings?

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo
Actress Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun, and Song Hye-kyo. Photo | Kyunghyang DB.

Recently, return dramas of top actresses such as Jeon Ji-hyun, Lee Young-ae, and Song Hye-kyo, including cable channel tvN’s “Jirisan,” comprehensive programming channel JTBC’s “Inspector Koo,” and SBS’s “Now We Are Breaking Up,” have been looked down upon by some people because of their low ratings. Even their topic-making ability and quality are being underestimated.

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo

Of course, ratings can be used to reflect the public’s interest, but a low rating is simply not enough to judge a production and the values of top celebrities starring in it as “flop.” In order to discuss their so-called “prices,” it is necessary to understand the ratings and the overall drama industry in the pandemic situation.

The reason why people used to be obsessed with ratings in the past was because it was directly related to TV advertising revenue. The decline in ratings soon became a very important indicator of drama performance as it affects the supply and demand of the drama’s production cost. 

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo

However, now that the viewing pattern has changed 180 degrees after going through the pandemic and “With Corona” period, the opinion on viewership should also change. It is not reasonable to simply use rating as a sole criterion for a drama’s success and failure. As the number of video streaming service (OTT) platforms increases and various types of web content such as short form and mid form are pouring out, the concept of so-called “live broadcasting” where people wait in front of TV at a set time is disappearing. In particular, young people watch productions through Netflix or “binge-watch” videos on platforms that allow them to access content without advertisements, and they tend to watch them according to their conditions regardless of time and place, so various aspects such as “topic-making ability” as well as ratings should be considered. 

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo

The ways for dramas to recover its production costs have also become more diverse. In particular, top actresses such as Jeon Ji-hyun, Lee Young-ae, and Song Hye-kyo are stars who led the Korean Wave, and their names alone can bring 100% of overseas pre-sales, so they have already served as the money makers.

CEO of Keyeast Park Sung-hye said on the phone with Sports Kyunghyang, “There are 3 Hallyu stars whose works can be sold anywhere overseas. Therefore, there is a side that makes it possible to produce works in sizes that are difficult to make. Genres and attempts that cannot be seen in existing broadcasters were also possible thanks to the sales of these actors. While OTT uses and the standards in the public eye have increased, it is thanks to top actors like these 3 actors who led the way that the drama production was able to keep up with the current trend.”

Their aura also plays a part in attracting great attention from overseas viewers. In the case of “Jirisan”, it topped the list of videos with high views on overseas platforms immediately after its release. In addition, this drama also ranked 5th place on IMDb, the world’s largest site that provides video content information, as the highest-ranking Korean drama this year. It also received a high rate from users, with 8.6 points.

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo

Moreover, the U.S magazine Forbes said, “‘Jirisan’ presents mysterious backstories that cross the genre with thrilling rescue scenes along with the outstanding natural scenery”. They even conducted an interview with actress Jeon Ji-hyun, who plays the lead role in this drama.

“Now, We Are Breaking Up” also ranked No.1 in the top 5 markets of the video platform ViKi, including Europe, South America, North America, India and Oceania. It also dominated the top ranking in several Southeast Asian countries, such as Hong Kong and Thailand, on Viu channel, which provides global services. In other words, everything works with the power of top stars.

Lee Young-ae, Jeon Ji-hyun and Song Hye-kyo

Another drama official said, “There is definitely a reason to cast these actors. This is because they can bring profits that are a lot more than the production costs. Drama production cannot ignore profitability, but since they can help generate several times more than the amount of money spent on the production, we have no choice but to acknowledge the value of these names.”


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