Women’s sports rises as trending content in Korean TV

By Lee Si-jin
  • Published : Aug 3, 2021 - 18:39
  • Updated : Aug 3, 2021 - 18:39

From left: “Sporty Sisters,” “Witches” and “Kick a Goal” (Echannel, MBC, SBS)

Female celebrities are leading a new content trend in the Korean broadcasting industry, reflecting a growing interest in women’s sports.

South Korean cable network Echannel’s original series “Sporty Sisters” sparked the public‘s interest in women’s sports, starring legendary Korean athletes such as golfer Pak Se-ri, fencer Nam Hyun-hee and volleyball player Han Yoo-mi. The series shows sports stars leading a lifestyle that is not restricted to rigorous daily training.

Now the featured athletes are enjoying worldwide popularity, as the program was picked up by global streaming platform Netflix in September 2020.

Local broadcasters MBC and SBS jumped on the bandwagon, launching “Witches” and “Kick a Goal” in June, respectively.

The programs revolve around female celebrities learning unfamiliar sports.

“Witches” returned for a second season after debuting on MBC YouTube channel Mbignews in 2020. The baseball variety show starring famous celebrities, including Yoon Bo-mi of girl group Apink, comedian Kim Min-kyung and former gymnast Shin Su-ji went viral, which led to the second season.

From left: Actors An Hye-kyeong, Song Eun-young and Park Sun-young, artist Shin Hyo-bum, former actor Jo Hana and TV celebrity Suh Danielle form FC Bulnabang, a soccer team in “Kick a Goal.” (SBS)

“Kick A Goal,” which airs on SBS on Wednesdays, groups female celebrities from different fields -- comedians, actors, models, former national sports team members and foreign-born TV celebrities in Korea -- for a soccer tournament. The stars are coached by Korean soccer legends, including Hwang Sun-hong, Choi Yong-soo and Lee Yong-pyo.

With its viewership ratings reaching new records each week, “Kick a Goal” has become the most popular nondrama programming content, according to GoodData.

The weekly show on July 21 -- the last episode before the long Olympics break -- recorded 7.2 percent viewership, according to Nielsen Korea. It was the highest rated program at 9 p.m. after KBS news.

Two teams line up for a game in “Kick a Goal.” (SBS)

Women’s sport-variety shows are trending because they are fresh, quenching viewers‘ thirst for something new, culture critic Jung Duk-hyun said.

“Many sports programs are male-dominated. Though the producers launched programs with different sports, the viewers became tired of similar faces, similar formats and similar stories. Introducing female stars easily solved that problem,” Jung told The Korea Herald.

Jung believes that viewers will soon forget the words “women’s sports.”

“The audience might have started watching the program interested in watching female celebrities playing new sports. But they will soon be drawn by the stars’ sincere passion for the sports and watch the program only as a ‘sports-variety show.’”

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)