2018-11-01 03:31:11 UTC
<https://www.dramafever.com/drama/3875/secret-garden/>in a list of places you could watch a fantasy K-drama that I hate but
many others love.
Apparently, this was already untrue; DramaFever had shut down a few
days before. Its new owner, AT&T, seems to have decided that in
order to compete with Netflix it has to become Netflix, so shouldn't
operate a bunch of niche services (several others were also closed).
There's been no announcement yet as to when AT&T's new comprehensive
service will appear.
Concretely, the biggest effect this has re speculative dramas that I
currently know of is that a fantasy K-drama I love is currently
unavailable in North America for law-abiding viewing, that being
the one usually known in English as <My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho> resp.
<... a Nine-Tailed Fox>. 
To unpack a bit. A recently dead flash drive had on it, among other
things, the replacement I'd been working on since summer for my log's
discussion of K-dramas. (One reason for replacing it, even after I
recently found most of the original in a "backup", is that the new
version is, believe it or not, *shorter*.) That had my best records
of which dramas are available where; my handwritten info isn't all
correct, so when it tells me four other non-speculative dramas on my
list, besides <Gumiho>, have now become unavailable, I don't know
whether it's true. But I've checked, re <Gumiho>, and yes, it's now
off-limits to law-abiding North Americans. 
(As for my records of which *spec-ficnal* dramas are available where?
Those went when my laptop was stolen; even in the unlikely event that
they survive and I get them back, they'll be grossly out of date.
It's a safe bet that the trouble isn't limited to <Gumiho>, but Drama-
Fever had been acquiring fewer newer K-dramas, so the damage could be
relatively light, because the majority of all spec-ficnal K-dramas
have appeared in the last few years.)
Law-abiding places I now know of that specialise in subtitled K-
Viki - <https://www.viki.com/>
Operates in many countries; which dramas are available varies by
large regions, including "Americas" and "Oceania", but which
countries are in "Europe" varies by drama. Most dramas are
subtitled by amateurs in many languages. Some dramas are
paywalled. Now has the most historical depth of any of these.
(For spec-ficnal dramas, that matters little, but for getting to know
K-dramas in general, Viki is now the only game in town.)
OnDemandKorea - <http://www.ondemandkorea.com/> (ODK)
Last I checked, still Americas-only, or maybe even North America-
only. Many dramas aren't subtitled. The ones that are, are
professionally subtitled in English and/or Chinese. Few dramas
are paywalled. Doesn't go back very far.
KoreanContentWave - <https://www.kocowa.com/> (KoCoWa)
Available in North America and "Oceania" (or at least Australia
and I think New Zealand). Might be available in the UK, dunno
about Ireland. Carries only broadcast networks' dramas, which
means many recent spec-ficnal dramas aren't available there.
Professional English subtitles; I'm not sure they do any other
languages. Most dramas are paywalled. Doesn't go back very far.
All of these operate by the same basic business model: either watch
for free with ads, or pay a monthly price which gets you no ads, and
access to all the paywalled content. (Exception: at any given time,
ODK has a few pay-per-view movies.) The monthly fees seem to vary
more than they used to, but $10 is the highest I've encountered.
Daehandrama - <http://www.daehandrama.com/>
Available in the UK, and I'm not sure where else. Since I didn't
find out about it until after my laptop was stolen (so I lost VPN
access), I don't know much else about it.
Viu - <https://www.viu.com/>
Available in many countries between Singapore and Egypt, more or
less. I did know about this before my laptop was stolen, but
hadn't gotten anywhere investigating (my VPN was in Windows, which
I became increasingly reluctant to use online after Windows snuck
some spyware updates onto the machine).
There may be others, elsewhere in the world - there certainly *used*
to be a bunch in Europe - but these are the ones I know about.
Korean dramas are also available at most general-purpose streaming
sites, but in much smaller numbers. Each of the above sites has
hundreds; Netflix is the champion of the general-purpose ones with
something like thirty. Amazon was getting its dramas from DramaFever,
so I don't know what it'll do now. Hulu had seven the last time I
checked, Yahoo! View four. Many Web dramas are available subtitled
in probably more or less lawful uploads at YouTube, but far fewer
serious broadcast dramas, mostly from KBS World, and essentially none
of the cable dramas that include the majority of recent spec-fic.
If AT&T really wants to become like Netflix, then, several hundred
dramas may become permanently unavailable for law-abiding viewing in
North America. (Some of DramaFever's list will probably move to Viki
or ODK, or even KoCoWa, but I'll be very surprised if most of it does.)
DramaFever was also in Europe (not just the UK) and I'm not sure
where else, but I don't know how deep its libraries available in
those places were, or how much impact its closing will have there.
This summer I re-watched a number of dramas on DVD that I otherwise
would've had to watch at non-law-abiding sites, or pay DramaFever to
watch. (DF was more paywalled than Viki, though less than KoCoWa.)
DVD flaws forced me to go to the non-law-abiding sites anyway for
parts of several episodes, and those sites were obviously on the
ropes, with far fewer ads than I remembered. AT&T has just given
them the biggest present they've ever gotten.
But it may not be the last present. To the extent that AT&T has made
any explanations other than their business strategy, they've noted
substantial increases in license fees, from $800,000 per drama to
$1,000,000. ODK, in particular, may be vulnerable, since it doesn't
have a deep-pocketed corporate parent (AFAIK) and does hire
subtitlers. Viki is probably safer, being the opposite, and KoCoWa
is owned by the South Korean networks themselves, so doesn't have to
pay license fees. (On the other hand, the non-law-abiding sites
mostly haven't bothered with the kinds of shows ODK carries, which
tend to be niche shows, including spec-ficnal ones. So if ODK closes,
those shows may just vanish altogether, as opposed to being available
in the darker parts of the web.) Since those numbers undoubtedly
refer specifically to rights for the Americas, I have no idea whether,
or how much, prices are rising for DaehanDrama or Viu too.
 I thought I remembered that DramaFever's co-productions, which
it got exclusive rights to for the Americas (and paywalled, so I
haven't watched them), included a spec-ficnal show, but the specific
show I remembered I was wrong about, and I'm not finding evidence for
any part of this memory now.
 OnDemandKorea has <Gumiho> without subtitles (English *or*
Chinese). On computers, ODK's default window is small enough that
one *could* watch the show with subtitles open in a separate text
window. And I'm pretty sure there are fansubs - subtitles made for
the community by fans - for the drama. So you could download the
fansubs and just do that. I've *done* that, as a test (also at ODK
but with a different drama), so I know it's possible to watch dramas
that way, but it sucks, and isn't a good plan for any of your first
(Separately, I don't really recommend fansubs for your first few
dramas anyway, because they tend to leave some untranslatable terms
untranslated instead of using workarounds. So I'd recommend North
Americans considering trying K-dramas start at Netflix, KoCoWa or ODK,
then try Viki after maybe five shows plus a glossary, or ten without.)
<Gumiho> is a reasonably famous and popular example of an older
drama. (All K-dramas more than two years old are at all times older
dramas. Early next January, all K-dramas I've now watched will be
older dramas.) I can easily see <Gumiho> going to any of KoCoWa,
Viki, or ODK; and if AT&T decide *not* to throw away what they've got,
and *do* carry more than 30 dramas when they finally build their new
service, <Gumiho> has a decent chance of being kept.
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>