by Lily Alice, June 9, 2024
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tvN is on a roll this year. With 2024 only halfway through, it has already given Hallyu fans three hit K-dramas back to back: Queen of TearsMarry My Husband and Lovely Runner

These dramas have not only captivated audiences but also showcased tvN's strategic prowess in catering to specific demographics. It's interesting to note that tvN attributes the success of these dramas to their popularity among women aged 20-49.

During the tvN Media Talk on May 8, Park Sang Hyuk, head of channel business, expressed pride in Lovely Runner's strong appeal to women aged 20-49, especially those in their 30s. In response to this trend, tvN has been proactive in conducting pre-broadcast screenings to identify selling points that resonate with the 20s and 30s. This approach has undoubtedly paid off, evident in the increases in views and buzz on both tvN, TVING, and international OTTs. 

Director Hong affirmed tvN's commitment to catering to a diverse audience, particularly focusing on viewers in their 20s and 30s. As a result, the success statistics of Queen of Tears, Marry My Husband, and Lovely Runner not only underscore their popularity but also highlight tvN's adeptness at engaging its target audience and shaping the contemporary K-drama landscape. 

Before we shelve these series in the back of our memories and move on to upcoming shows, let's take a look at the success statistics of these K-dramas, which have not only become the biggest hits of 2023 but also made their mark in K-drama history.  Here is a brief summary of the success of Queen of TearsMarry My Husband and Lovely Runner in numbers.

First up is Marry My Husband. Premiered on January 1, Marry My Husband is a fantasy drama that tells the story of Kang Ji Won (Park Min Young), a woman who discovers her best friend's (Song Ha Yoon) affair with her husband (Lee Yi Kyung). After tragically dying at her husband's hands, she mysteriously goes ten years back in time to rewrite her life. 

As soon as Marry My Husband premiered, it began ranking at the top of Good Data Corporation's charts — a company that provides weekly rankings featuring the most talked about actors and dramas in Korea by analyzing from various sources including news articles, blog posts, online communities, videos, and social media. Park Min YoungSong Ha YoonNa In Woo, and Lee Yi Kyung's names were constantly spotted on the company's lists throughout the K-drama's run.  

Not only that, Marry My Husband started off with 5.21% (nationwide), a rarity for a Monday-Tuesday drama airing on a pay television network. It achieved a double-digit nationwide viewership of 10.71% for episode 10 and scored a peak metropolitan rating of 13.03% (episode 11). 

Marry My Husband not only made waves back home, but it also took Prime Video by storm. Trending on the OTT service in over 100 countries, it became the first K-drama to claim the top spot in the global daily TV show rankings on Prime Video since the streaming service was launched worldwide in 2016. Moreover, it was the first K-drama to rank on Prime Video's Top 10 charts in North American and European countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy. 

But what's even more surprising is that, over three months since its conclusion, Marry My Husband continues to rank on Prime Video's Top 10 lists. As of June 9, it was spotted on Prime Video's Top 10 lists in over 45 countries (FlixPatrol). 


Then came the most buzzworthy K-drama of the year so far — Queen of Tears. 

Queen of Tears tells the story of Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won), the chaebol heiress of Queens Group, and Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun), her husband and the legal director of the same conglomerate. The drama revolves around the couple and the challenges they face in their third year of marriage.

The K-drama premiered on March 9, but started ranking on Good Data Corporation's list since the third week of February itself. From the first week of March to the last week of April, the K-drama and its leads — Kim Soo Hyun and Kim Ji Won — topped the popularity ranking charts unfailingly.  

In terms of its domestic viewership, Queen of Tears achieved peak ratings of 24.85% (nationwide) and 28.38% (metropolitan) for episode 16,  overtaking all-time hits — Crash Landing on YouSKY Castle and Goblin. It set a new personal record every week and ultimately became the third highest-rated drama on cable TV overall in South Korea. That's not all. Queen of Tears also took Netflix by storm. 

Within a day of its premiere, it ranked seventh on Netflix's Global Top 10 list (non-English) and remained among the Top 5 shows until May 12. As of June 2, it has held a spot on the chart for 13 weeks and also surpassed 600 million viewing hours on the platform. Among this year's tvN hits, Queen of Tears remains by far the most popular worldwide. 


Finally, we have the recently concluded Lovely Runner. 

Lovely Runner is a fantasy drama that follows Im Sol (Kim Hye Yoon), a devoted fan who becomes despondent after the death of idol star Ryu Seon Jae (Byeon Woo Seok), who gave her the will to live. She then mysteriously travels back in time to change her and Seon Jae's fate. 

Lovely Runner premiered on April 8 and started ranking on Good Data's charts in the first week of April. In the second week, it straight up took the second spot (Queen of Tears taking the first spot), and Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon also saw their names in the top 4 most popular actors/actresses. After Queen of Tears concluded on April 28, Lovely Runner and Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon ranked first on Good Data's charts. As of the latest list for the fifth week of May, Lovely Runner, Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon top the popularity rankings.  

When it comes to tvN ratings, the K-drama started off with 3.07% and reached a peak metropolitan viewership of 7.20% for episode 16.  However, Lovely Runner's craze in Korea wasn't reflected in tvN ratings, instead the K-drama was making waves on TVING — a South Korean OTT streaming service. 

TVING has been competing with foreign OTTs, such as Netflix and Disney+, to become the No.1 streaming service for K-content in South Korea, while also working towards the ambitious goal of overtaking them on the global level.

The first milestone of this vision was reached on May 28, when the domestic OTT streaming service TVING surpassed Netflix Korea in total viewing time. According to the big data analysis platform Mobile Index, on May 28, TVING recorded a total usage time of 2,500,010 hours, making it the top OTT service with the most viewed hours in South Korea. This was 91,831 hours more than Netflix Korea's 2,408,179 hours. 

Although it was just for a day, it was the first time TVING beat the OTT giant Netflix in total viewing time in the home of K-dramas. This success was largely attributed to the exclusive airing of Lovely Runner. Additionally, the broadcast of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League contributed to setting a record-breaking achievement. 

TVING's Daily Average Users (DAU) have also significantly increased recently. On that day, TVING's DAU reached 2.17 million, narrowing the gap with Netflix (2.3 million) to 130,000. The gap between the two OTT services, which used to be over 200,000, has noticeably decreased. This caused quite a stir in the Korean OTT industry. Reports even suggest that TVING held an emergency meeting to analyze the factors behind their strong performance.

The record-breaking figures are largely due to the influence of tvN's Lovely Runner. The day the finale of Lovely Runner was released, TVING saw a huge rush of viewers to its platform. To sum up the success of the K-drama in Korea, its total viewing time, combining data from TVING and tvN, reached 1.6 billion minutes (approximately 26.6 million hours).

On a side note, when analyzing the contribution of paid subscribers from tvN dramas on TVING, Lovely Runner ranked second, with first place held by Queen of Tears. 

Talking about its global popularity, the K-drama trended heavily on Viki. Soompi reported Lovely Runner "ranked No. 1 in viewership in 133 regions including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Mexico" in its premiere week. Then on May 23, another Soompi report wrote the K-drama "placed No. 1 in viewership in a total of 130 regions on its sixth week of broadcast. In particular, the drama ranked No. 1 for six consecutive weeks in 109 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Mexico, and more.

A representative of Rakuten Viki remarked, 'Lovely Runner is breaking its own record every week in the number of weekly viewers in North America, and it is recording the highest number of weekly viewers among 2024 dramas.'"

When compared side by side, talking on the global level, Queen of Tears comes out on top as the most popular K-drama, followed by Marry My Husband, and then Lovely Runner, according to Google Trends.  

While it remains to be seen whether any upcoming OTT originals can match these dramas in their popularity, what's undeniable is that tvN, which has gained fame for delivering these hits, has left K-drama fans eagerly anticipating its upcoming shows.

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