Smash hit movies and TV shows such as Parasite and Squid Game, coupled with the unprecedented success of boy band BTS, have helped to cement South Korea as a major player on the global entertainment map.
Success for Korean entertainment companies carries the same pros and cons as it does for those in the West. More exposure, more sales, greater opportunities and, somewhat inevitably, more piracy.
That led to an announcement last month that broadcasters, including KBS, MBC and JTBC, the Korea Film and Video Copyright Association (film producers and distributors), plus streaming platforms TVING and Wavve, were forming a coalition to fight piracy. These companies took on board the ‘stronger together’ philosophy of the global anti-piracy coalition ACE, and reports suggested that ACE itself would also be a part of the Korean program.
Noonoo TV in the Spotlight
The Korean anti-piracy coalition’s first public target was revealed at the same time. With tens of millions of visitors per month, movie and TV show streaming giant Noonoo TV was a fairly predictable target.
Blamed for racking up 1.5 billion views of pirated movies and TV shows and allegedly causing billions of dollars worth of losses to legitimate platforms, aggressive site-blocking measures had failed to dull the site’s popularity.
After regularly obtaining circumvention domains in a sequence that began with noonoo1.tv and progressed to noonoo2.tv and beyond, when we reported on the site last month noonoo32.tv was the height of fashion.
At the time of writing, noonoo46.tv is responsible for circumventing ISP blockades, but a message placed on the site this morning also suggests it could be the last domain the site will ever need.
Studiouniversal Calls it Quits
“Hello, this is the Studiouniversal team,” the announcement begins. “It is with a heavy heart that we deliver unfortunate news to everyone who has used Noonoo up until now.”
“Since the official launch of the service in June 2021, we have been able to stay together with the love of many people. After careful consideration based on the outrageous traffic charge problem and the pressure on the site from all directions, we have made a decision to end the service at 00:00 on April 14, 2023.”
The reference to traffic charges may be a general complaint about South Korea’s “sender pays” policies.
These require ISPs to charge for the traffic they receive from each other rather than utilize settlement-free peering as they did in the past. There are indications that these costs are being pushed toward video platforms that host and supply content.
“We can’t dare to count the loss that many users must have suffered with this news of the end of service, but we, too, are also very sorry and we share this news with a very heavy heart,” Noonoo TV continues.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to each and every one of you who believed in and used us, and we wish you all the best in everything you do. Once again, thank you very much for using our service.”
Massive Legal Pressure
While the Noonoo TV announcement cites “pressure” as the second most prominent reason for the shutdown, it is this component rather than bandwidth costs that has shifted most during the past few weeks.
In addition to the founding of a major anti-piracy coalition with global reach, rightsholders also announced a US$3.78 billion criminal copyright complaint against Noonoo TV while condemning its use of gambling adverts to generate revenue.
The TV report above aired a few hours ago suggests that Noonoo TV may have been operated by a gambling company but even if that was indeed the case, further business opportunities now appear somewhat limited.
Clones Probably Incoming
The inevitable response to the closure of a platform as significant as Noonoo TV will be the influx of clone and copy sites. Noonoo TV’s shutdown notice warns about this directly.
“Please be careful of impersonation sites derived after the end of the service,” the platform says.
There hasn’t been a flood of mass registrations in the past few hours but dozens of domains with noonoo and noonooTV branding already exist so their owners may see an opportunity to fill a pretty big gap in the market. The big question is whether the gap will be filled with movies and TV shows, or perhaps unexpected extras with the potential to ruin a visitor’s day.
The remaining possibility is that Noonoo will make some kind of return, potentially under different branding. At this stage, those kinds of conversations are entirely normal and may or may not be grounded in fact. Having said that, a site that has persistently linked to new and official Noonoo TV domains seems fairly optimistic that some kind of return is already being planned.