Deals

DramaFever, a fast growing Asian Hulu, raises $4.5M from YouTube veterans

Ever heard of Drama Fever? Cool, me neither. Turns out the New York startup has 1.5 million viewers, three times what they had in March of 2011. Each month these folks spend many hours and up to $10 a pop to get the best in East Asian drama and boy bands streamed to them in high-def.

That’s why YouTube co-founder Steven Chen and Google Exec Benjamin Ling are backing the company to the tune of $4.5 million, along with Spreecast founder Jeff Fluhr in a round led by MK Capital.

“We started out as four guys in an apartment,” said co-founder Seung Bak, who chatted with VentureBeat by phone. “We grew up watching Japanese soap operas and Korean dramas, so we knew there was a problem getting high quality version that were translated and subtitled well.”

Drama Fever has around 400 series from South Asia, mostly Korea, totaling over 10,000 hours of content, which is watched by an audience that is, surprisingly, 75% non-Asian and 60 percent caucasian. “This is great TV. It’s like the Desperate Housewives of Asia,” said Bak. “We’re offering them a window into another world.”

The plan for the funding is to double the size of the engineering team and replicate the success Drama Fever has had with other international markets. “With broadband spreading to most homes, the world is getting flatter,” said Seung. “We think there is a lot of potential to bring the 80-90% of great content created outside Hollywood, in Latin America telenovelas or Bollywood movies, and bring that to a high quality web service with top notch translation.”

Right now Drama Fever has a freemium business model, with about 15,000 paying subscribers who spend $10 a month and the rest watching ad-supported content backed by blue chip names like Toyota and Wells Fargo.

“DramaFever has found the way to create highly-engaging, sticky viewer experiences and new cross-border revenue streams for international media partners,” says Mark Terbeek, partner at MK Capital. “Given how fast and strong the company has grown despite the economic downturn, we’re excited to see what will happen next, especially as more people are flipping on their computers to discover new and better sources for entertainment.”

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