The Korea Herald


K-pop idol-led variety shows expand to cable

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Feb. 19, 2024 - 15:54

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A scene from A scene from "Nana Tour with Seventeen" featuring members of Seventeen (Hybe Entertainment)

A TV variety show featuring K-pop idols is proving that TV and fandom-based online platforms could be a winning combination.

K-pop groups have been running their own variety shows for a while on social media and the fan platform Weverse.

But for "Nana Tour with Seventeen," the episodes were also broadcast on cable channel tvN, looking to simultaneously appeal to the K-pop super-fans and a wider audience among the general public -- while making use of Weverse's potential for audience participation.

The show, which ran from Jan. 5 until Friday, follows the stories that occur as members of K-pop idol group Seventeen travel abroad.

It is the latest iteration of Korean program director Nah Yung-suk's hit variety show series "Grandpas Over Flowers," "Noona Over Flowers," and "Youth Over Flowers," which follow groups of celebrities as they visit global destinations

After airing the edited episodes on television, full versions of the episodes were released on Weverse for an extra fee.

The show had the highest viewership rating of any cable channel program aired in Seoul and the Gyeonggi Province for four consecutive weeks, according to market research firm Nielsen Korea. The cumulative views recorded 136 million views for the show's first to fifth episode.

"Nana Tour with Seventeen" is the latest in a series of K-pop idol-led variety shows -- a format that is gaining a firm foothold in the Korean market.

"Run BTS," a real variety entertainment show presented by K-pop super boy band BTS, which was distributed on Weverse over five years starting in August 2015, has over 110 episodes, many of which have more than 10 million views.

"Going Seventeen," a variety show led by Seventeen streamed on YouTube from June 2017 to November 2023, recorded more than 100 million total views for its latest sixth season, which was uploaded from March 2023 to November 2023.

For the K-pop idol variety shows' strong performance, an official from Hybe Entertainment, a K-pop agency responsible for the co-production of "Nana Tour with Seventeen" together with CJ ENM, said they attributed the show's success due to it being able to satisfy the needs of multiple demographics including K-pop super fans, as well as "light" K-pop fans and the general public.

"By providing entertainment content with familiar themes (such as Na's traveling entertainment show series) that featured K-pop artists to regular TV viewers, the show aimed to 'fandomize the masses' while 'popularizing fan content,'" said a Hybe Entertainment official.

The variety show also explored the concept of the cast interacting with the audience through Weverse.

According to Hybe Entertainment, the unique experience of being able to simultaneously watch content and communicate with the cast -- such as conversations between fans and the artists about the behind-the-scenes stories that took place during the shooting through Weverse Live, added to the success of the show.

Merchandise related to "Nana Tour with Seventeen" sold out within 5 minutes and then again in 18 minutes when a second batch was made available.

"The power of K-pop artist's intellectual property is strengthened, and various forms of content can be presented to the global fandom (through such real variety shows)," said the Hybe Entertainment official.

The fact that the variety show can be offered in diverse languages including minor languages -- especially languages of Southeast Asian countries, where most K-pop fans are situated -- also boosts the popularity of variety shows on Weverse. The platform provides subtitles in six languages: Korean, English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Indonesian.

"Achieving this level of interaction is difficult with traditional TV broadcasting but it becomes possible to create a cohesive experience of enjoying content and interacting with artists," said the Hybe Entertainment official.

Screenshots of Screenshots of "Nana Tour with Seventeen" being streamed on Weverse (left), members of Seventeen interacting with audience (middle) and official merchandise being sold (Hybe Entertainment)