‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ studio rejects Netflix’s offer for original series

SEOUL-- The head of the Korean production studio behind the hit legal drama "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" said Wednesday that he had rejected Netflix's offer to produce the project as its original series in a bid to fully secure the show's intellectual property.

The 16-part TV series about autistic lawyer Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin) was aired in South Korea on the local cable channel ENA from June 29-Aug. 22. It was available on Netflix outside the country at the same time.

It has been atop the streamer's official weekly viewership chart for a total of seven weeks since it made the top 10 in its second week of release.

It is the second non-Netflix original Korean TV series that hit the top position after SBS' romantic comedy "Business Proposal" (2022).

"Netflix proposed producing an original series, but we turned down the offer and sold our overseas broadcasting rights instead," Lee Sang-baek, CEO of Astory, said at a special session of the 2022 Broadcast Worldwide (BCWW) convention, a broadcasting content market, in Seoul. "Then, we approached a local TV channel that wants domestic broadcasting rights."

Astory, founded in 2004, is one of the leading drama production studios in Korea, well known for Netflix's hit historical zombie thriller "Kingdom" (2009) and "Kingdom 2" (2020).

"Kingdom" is Netflix's first Korean-language original for which the streamer monopolizes all IP, including domestic and international broadcasting rights, rights for reproduction and control over derivative works.

The Astory chief said his company has hardly benefited from the worldwide popularity of "Kingdom," which received critical acclaim from critics and the audience and continued to the second season and a spin-off episode, "Kingdom: Ashin of the North" (2021).

"We made 'Kingdom' but it was so regrettable that we didn't have IP of such good content," Lee said.

"IP helps a studio earn sustainable money and keep growing. Without IP, the company has to depend on outsourced deals."

In the case of "Woo," Astory holds the exclusive right to copy, distribute and adapt the original story. The web comic version of the drama is now available on Naver Webtoon, while a stage musical adaptation is in production.

"We've sold the webtoon to five countries and we're in talks with a U.S. agency. We're developing three versions of musicals under the name of 'Woo,'" the Astory official said. "All these businesses will help us stay afloat and produce better quality shows."

Source: Yonhap News Agency