The South Korean series The Coffee Prince is accessible to Americans via streaming site Hulu.

The Korean series The Coffee Prince is accessible to Americans via the streaming site Hulu.

International series that previously may have been seen only by local audiences are now available to television fans everywhere.

In years past, foreign-film buffs needed to go to art-house movie theatres to get their fix, while television fans who wanted foreign content would have to get special satellite feeds in their home. With the advent of television on DVD and binge viewing, viewers had more options and more opportunity to find niche programming.

As the internet becomes more popular as a TV service – and, for many younger viewers, their only TV service – the barriers to finding international content have been all but eliminated.

Bringing Asia to America

The Lovely Sam-Soon is a South Korean romantic comedy that streams on Hulu in the U.S.

My Lovely Sam Soon is a Korean romantic comedy that streams on Hulu in the U.S.

Hollywood has long used the international television industry as a sort of incubator, with producers adapting overseas hits for U.S. audiences.

Emmy-winning series Homeland and new drama series Hostages are based on Israeli series, for instance, while The Killing was based on a Danish drama and Ugly Betty was an adaptation of the Colombian series Yo soy Betty, la fea.

But viewers in the U.S. and other countries now have access to – and can debate the merits of – the original versions, as well as other hidden gems, through video streaming.

In May of 2010, Hulu partnered with DramaFever to offer the “best of Asian TV” to Hulu users with English subtitles.

By streaming Asian hits like My Lovely Sam Soon, described as the “Korean television version of Bridget Jones’ Diary” and the Korean romantic comedy series Coffee Prince, Hulu is introducing made-in-Asia entertainment to an American audience.

Advertisers will want to take note as Korean series have proven appeal to a wide spectrum of Asian Americans, according to Nielsen. Even the name Hulu has Asian roots, coming from two Mandarin words: húlú (a hollowed-out gourd used to hold a precious thing) and hùlù (meaning “interactive recording”).

Exporting Bollywood and beyond

Given the worldwide popularity of Bollywood films and the massive Indian diaspora, Indian television content also offers brands a prime opportunity to get their messages in front of a growing audience.

Reed Midem is the company behind the world’s largest and most successful content markets, MipTV and MipCom. The company recently organized a three-city “road show” in India for media executives to meet local distributors, get to know India’s content ecosystem and bring Indian content to a global audience.

“We have seen the success that several Asian countries have achieved thanks to MipCom and MipTV and would like India’s content makers to replicate and even surpass that,” Reed Midem’s Asia sales manager, Paul Barbaro, told IndianTelevision.com.

Popular Indian series such as Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah could soon appear on American screens.

Popular Indian series such as Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah could soon appear on American screens.

Quality is king

Other countries such as Turkey and Belgium are also investing heavily in their fictional series, hoping to replicate the success of Scandinavian dramas abroad.

But marketing and distribution only go so far. Quality – that is, investing in quality productions – remains the key factor for appealing to a wide selection of viewers and garnering an audience worthy of advertising dollars. Content, in other words, remains king.

Given the growing popularity of international series, the opportunity for advertisers to target some of the fastest-growing ethnic populations in developed countries, and the looming threat of Netflix as a purveyor of original content, can it be long before traditional television networks broadcast original international content instead of American adaptations?