We can see that in explaining the 4th generation, the core factor is the influence of BTS.
However, many other elements, which do not relate to the success of BTS, could be explained by OTT (Over The Top media service), especially Youtube.
From the late 2nd generation to the early 3rd generation, KPOP idols contents are provided mainly by broadcasting stations. In this era, broadcasting stations are definitely not a scarecrow; however, they no longer hold the “superpower” in the entire entertainment market.
It is undeniable that Youtube, Kakao, Netflix, and Naver are the most well-known broadcasting stations at the moment. It is confirmed that Disney Plus will soon join them after entering the Korean market.
Especially in terms of the media environment, we can clearly distinguish the early 3rd generation by considering the relationship between the broadcasters and Youtube.
In December 2014, Korean broadcasting stations (during the 3rd generation of idols) prevented users from watching their content posted on their Youtube. Since then, Koreans had to watch the contents only on Naver TV Cast and DaumPod. As a result, this method received a lot of criticism. In recent years, this method has been turned down due to some obvious reasons. Indeed, broadcasters cannot keep in check everything posted on Youtube. However, they gain more profits because Youtube is a platform that attracts overwhelming views.
From the perspective of large OTT businesses, including Youtube, the major broadcasting stations such as KBS, MBC, and SBS are nothing more than the content providers. Compared to BTS and BLACKPINK, these providers have lower views and fewer subscribers.
It was not until the 2nd generation of idols that this change in the entertainment market appeared unpredictably.
During the 2nd generation, variety shows such as SBS’s ‘Star King’, SBS’s Strong Heart’, KBS’s ‘Star Golden Bell’, MBC’s ‘Three Wheels’ and SBS’s ‘Heroes’ were the most popular programs where the idols participated and caught the attention of the viewers. For example, Kara’s Nicole starred in ‘Star Golden Bell’, After School’s UEE in ‘Three Wheels’, and IU in ‘Heroes’. Compared to nowadays, people are more attracted to the broadcasting channels back then.
However, after the 3rd generation emerged, the function of discovering new idols of the top 3 big broadcasters had been lost. The ratings declined and their variety shows were no longer attractive to the audiences. Since then, the 3 big broadcasters are led by observational programs such as “My Little Old Boy”, “I Live Alone”, and “The Return of Superman”. Until now, the situation remains the same.
Advertising and sponsorship (ex: SEVENTEEN‘s own content “GOING SEVENTEEN”) will be introduced in idol’s own content. In the current era of KPOP, the idols with multi-talents provide their own content and make themselves as the main character (ex: WJSN’s Chuu with her Youtube channel “Chuu Can Do it‘)
The name that has been mentioned the most, BTS, also has their own web variety show called “Run BTS”. As a result, this show has attracted much more attention than the broadcasting stations’ content.
Like that, many factors that were originally monopolized by broadcasting stations, such as high popularity and advertisements in video format, have been transferred to YouTube (including OTT, Internet broadcasting).
In many ways, the 3rd generation can be said to be a transitional period in which the entertainment power is transferred from broadcasting stations to YouTube. At present, the 4th generation is the period when the rankings between broadcasting stations and YouTube have officially changed.
In this era, the new idols appeared when broadcasting stations were ‘completely defeated’ by YouTube. Moreover, they are newbies who debuted when ‘the broadcasting station is no longer the super level A’. As performers, they have never lived in a world where YouTube is not the “super level A” for even a second.
Youtube has definitely gained most of the attention. You can check through their web content (web entertainment shows and web drama) which were broadcasted on various OTT platforms, including Youtube. This is the era when popular content on Youtube could definitely gain millions of subscribers.
Therefore, we are trying to say that the current new idols, the 4th generation, can be distinguished from the 3rd generation idols.