Online streamers cash in on K-pop concert films and documentaries

A scene from Suga’s concert film, “Suga | Agust D Tour ‘D-Day’ The Movie,” which documented the finale show of his “Suga Agust D Tour.” The tour captivated a total audience of 290,000 concertgoers over 25 concerts held in 10 cities. [HYBE, TRAFALGAR RELEASING]

It’s the K-pop that keeps on popping.

These days, K-pop artists not only put on shows but keep their fans around the world enamored through video content that documents their music and lives. It allows audiences to watch and relive concerts, peer into behind-the-scenes activities or feel connected to their idols.

Production companies and online media platforms have caught on to fans’ tendencies to watch their favorite artists' content again and again. And they are cashing in.

Poster for "Suga | Agust D Tour 'D-Day' The Movie" [HYBE, TRAFALGAR RELEASING]

BTS rapper Suga’s first theatrically released film “Suga | Agust D Tour ‘D-Day’ The Movie” became the highest-grossing concert movie so far in 2024 in the U.S. and abroad, after also being the highest-grossing event ever for a K-pop solo artist, according to the film’s distributor Trafalgar Releasing on Wednesday.

The movie earned a total of $10.16 million worldwide from limited showtimes when it played in theaters from April 10 to 14. It grossed $2.58 million in Mexico, the film’s top market worldwide, and landed at No. 10 on the list of the highest-grossing releases in U.S. theaters from April 12 to 14, earning a cumulative total gross of $2.3 million for North America.

The film documents Suga, who also goes by the name Agust D, on his "Suga Agust D" world tour. It captured the finale show of his tour, which had a total audience of 290,000 and spanned 25 concerts held in 10 cities.

A scene from Disney+ original documentary “Suga: Road to D-Day” (2023) [DISNEY+]

A documentary released on Disney+ last year, “Suga: Road to D-Day," followed Suga as he traveled the world in search of musical inspiration for his album “D-Day." It showed the singer at his most vulnerable, as he discussed his writer’s block with other musicians and spoke about his most traumatic memories while penning his lyrics.

Media content featuring pop stars has gradually becoming a reliable product for global online streaming platforms. Production companies have jumped on the bandwagon, producing both live concert films and documentaries. In some cases, companies can produce multiple products from one event. And the products guarantee repeat viewing.

Carol Choi, Disney’s executive vice president of Asia-Pacific original content, explains this is what makes the content so appealing for media production companies.

During a media day on March 12, Choi said that fans want to see what top global musicians are like both on and behind the stage, including their candid moments during preparation, and that fans repeatedly watch this content over and over again.

Singer Psy's concert film ″Summer Swag 2022″ [DISNEY+]

In addition to content featuring BTS's Suga, Disney+ has released a docuseries on fellow BTS member J-Hope and two documentaries on the boy band itself. It also has docuseries and concert films featuring other K-pop acts, including Tomorrow X Together, Super Junior, Psy and NCT 127.

Through its partnership with K-pop powerhouse HYBE, Disney+ has established itself as a heavyweight when it comes to K-pop content. But it’s not the only platform that has been making use of this business model.

Netflix has also been attracting fans to its platform by releasing music documentaries that highlight pop legends, such as “Gaga: Five Foot Two” (2017), “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” (2019), “Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You” (2020), “Halftime” (2022) and “Wham!” (2023).

“The Greatest Night in Pop,” which premiered on Netflix in January, is a documentary that goes behind the scenes of the night in 1985 when the song “We Are the World” was recorded. It shows over 40 music legends, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan, participating in the production of the collaborative hit, and how the power of music is used for the greater good.

Footage of singers recording “We are the World″ in 1985, featured in Netflix’s original documentary “The Greatest Night in Pop” [NETFLIX]

“In terms of storytelling, pop stars who have built their legacy over multiple generations have a great capacity to appeal to the audience,” pop music critic Jung Min-jae said.

“This is in line with why so many biographical movies on legendary pop stars are being actively made, not just concert movies and documentaries.”

“Unlike the past when live performances were recorded and sold on DVDs and video tapes, online streaming platforms such as Netflix are much more accessible to the public. This makes it more appealing for [production companies and distributors] to continue creating content that highlights legendary pop stars to stimulate nostalgia or shed light on the ins and outs of pop stars' lives," said Jung.