In a significant development as per media reports, all members of Disney Korea’s OTT content team in South Korea responsible for discovering original content have left the company. This news follows Walt Disney’s global workforce reduction and rumors of the temporary suspension of domestic original content production for Disney+.
According to an exclusive report by IT Chosun, 15 members of the OTT content team from Disney+’s domestic division resigned, possibly due to the lack of substantial results achieved by Disney+ in the Korean market. Since its launch on November 12, 2021, Disney+ initially garnered attention for its anticipated extensive content lineup. However, factors such as subtitle errors and content limitations contributed to a gradual decline in user numbers. As of May 2023, Disney+ reported 1,797,157 monthly active users, only half the figure of domestic OTT platforms like Teabing, Coupang Play, and Wave.
Disney+ invested substantial amounts in producing Korean original content, including 20 billion won (USD 15 million) for “Casino” and 50 billion won (USD 38 million) for “Moving.” Unfortunately, these productions failed to gain significant traction. It is worth noting that Disney Korea has not provided official confirmation regarding personnel matters.
Industry insiders speculate that the dissolution of the content team is a direct consequence of Disney+’s struggles in the Korean market. With the departure of key content discovery personnel, the future of domestic original content production for Disney+ remains uncertain.
The number of Disney+ monthly active users (MAU) in Korea, as reported in May, significantly trails behind native OTTs such as Teabing (5.15 million MAU), Coupang Play (4.31 million MAU), and Wave (3.92 million MAU) during the same period. Despite the strong brand recognition of Disney, the platform failed to match its investment with user engagement.
Disney CEO Bob Iger had previously announced a global reduction in manpower, targeting underperforming divisions. This global workforce reduction resulted in 7,000 job cuts worldwide, with estimated savings of approximately USD 5.5 billion. Additionally,
Disney terminated operations in markets like Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia for channels such as National Geographic, Star China Movie, and Star Movie. Pixar, a Disney subsidiary, also laid off 75 individuals, including directors and producers, due to the disappointing performance of the movie “Buzz Lightyear.”
When approached for comment by the media, Disney Korea stated that it was challenging to provide confirmation as the matter pertained to personnel affairs.
The departure of Disney Korea’s OTT content team signifies the challenges faced by Disney+ in establishing a strong foothold in the Korean market. As the streaming landscape continues to evolve, Disney will need to reassess its strategy to effectively engage Korean audiences and regain momentum in the highly competitive OTT industry.