South Korea's cinema industry was devastated in early 2020 when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country with a monthly average number of moviegoers of about 9.6 million in 2019. The monthly average of visitors to cinemas dropped to 3.3 million in 2020 when strong social distancing regulations were imposed by the government. People stayed at their homes to avoid crowded places and consumed film content through over-the-top (OTT) services.
While the cinema industry was struggling to survive, the OTT market thrived. Led by American media company Netflix, South Korea's OTT service market now has more than 40 million monthly active users. Netflix is the largest OTT service operator with about 12 million paid subscribers. TVING, a domestic OTT service jointly operated by CJ ENM, the entertainment wing of South Korean conglomerate CJ Group, web service giant Naver, and broadcaster JTBC, has the second-largest number of subscribers of about five million.
According to a survey of 412 teenage moviegoers, jointly conducted by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and CGV in late 2022, the cinema franchise wing of CJ Group, 68.2 percent said that they visit cinemas at least twice a month. 30.1 percent visited theaters once a month. About half of the teenagers went to watch a movie with a friend. 29.1 percent said that they enjoy watching a film alone. For the favored media channel for watching a movie, teenagers said that their favorite was the cinemas (95.4 percent), followed by OTT services (47.1 percent). Netflix was teenagers' most-liked OTT service (84 percent).
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