We promised an in-depth review of the new streaming site KOCOWA and here we are to deliver. The Fangirls have spent the last few days seeing what the site offers, the quality of various features, as well as the accessibility to possible subscribers, all so you can make a knowledgeable decision on if this is the site for you.
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Initial thoughts on KOCOWA’s creation
KMUSE: Personally, I do not have any problems with the big three cutting out the middle man to bring dramas straight to their American viewers. Especially if it means that we will get faster and more content. Being a long time kdrama viewer, I remember when it was almost impossible to find subs for even half the airing shows (let alone, good quality video.) It was dark and sad times. So I see this as a sign of the further popularity of HALLYU. I also don’t think that we should be feeling bad for VIKI and Dramafever since this is, after all is said and done, a business.
Kdrama Jen: I am all for anything that will bring us more content, faster subs, and create a competitive market place.
Dramarookie: I’m resistant to change. I admit it. I get in my nice, safe bubble and resent when something makes waves. That being said, if someone comes along and does drama supply better, how can I hate that? The key word is BETTER.
Telzeytalks: The Korean TV stations have a right to distribute their own shows, but it creates a problem for watchers having to choose. Not only do we have our Kdrama sources Dramafever and VIKI, there are such things as Netflix and the new CBS All Access, which is going to have the new Star Trek show. It’s not practical to do all of them.
CLSunbae: Like Dramarookie, I’m slow to change. But anything that brings me better, faster content — and anything that furthers Hallyu — is something I will give a chance to.
Karie the Maknae: For me, this is a bit overwhelming. I didn’t even realize Viki existed until a couple of months ago, and now there’s ANOTHER service? Do you know how many dramas are on my to-watch list already???
Drama Geek: I’m resistant to having to pay for yet another service, but I already know if they have all the big three dramas then they’ll eventually get my service. It’s the life of an addict.
Jennie: I understand why they did it, but they should’ve done more research before starting it. How hard would it be to ask a group of Kdrama bloggers (i.e. us) what we want in a streaming site and then do everything so well that we have no problem forking out the money to enjoy our shows. I mean, we’ve already proven we’ll pay to see stuff, so why not make a site that actually rivals their competitors?
Quality of Content
KMUSE: So far the amount of content is a bit underwhelming. I am sure that will change as they continue to go forward with new dramas as well as building a library of classic dramas. But as of now, the only reason to buy is if you are a simulcast viewer (which I am.) They also are subbing several variety programs which I love. I have heard rumors that the variety shows take more than 6 hours after airing to be on the site. Not sure if that is going to be typical going forward or not. Either way, it is a legal way to watch those shows which I am a fan of.
Kdrama Jen: I am with Kmuse on this one. I love variety shows, so easy access to Running Man makes me happy. The current content does not have me too excited, but I expect that will soon change.
Dramarookie: 114. That’s the number of dramas I counted in their library. When I went over to Dramafever, I think I gave up counting around 400. And that was just the Korean ones. KOCOWA can’t currently beat the extensive and multi-country libraries of DF and VIKI. But I do like that they offer some of the lesser known variety shows (which were not included in the 114 count) like Home Alone and Law of the Jungle. And Running Man is my all time favorite K-show, even surpassing dramas, so it looks like KOCOWA and I will have some sort of continuing relationship as long as they are subbing it exclusively. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a hostage situation.
Telzeytalks: There are mostly new shows here, but some older ones. I searched for City Hunter, which is an SBS show, and they didn’t have it or Baby Faced Beauty (KBS2), which my granddaughter is watching. But they have Queen of Office (KBS2) which I have been looking for ever since the female lead was in Signal.
CLSunbae: I’m super unimpressed. There’s not much on there and at least 80 percent of it is stuff I can watch on other sites. For $7 a month, you better give me something worth coming there for. I like to simulcast but it’s not a desperate need, and I’m pretty sure the other sites will get the Kocowa-only shows once they’re done airing.
Karie the Maknae: I dove into the search function pretty heavily and discovered the same thing — 114 dramas, a few variety shows, and that’s it. There are a couple of dramas from my to-watch list that I found on Kocowa that aren’t on DF, but I don’t know if it’s enough to make me want to subscribe.
Drama Geek: Their selection is not why I will end up subscribing, I’m afraid. I just don’t have the patience to wait to watch currently airing dramas. So if they are the only ones that have the dramas I want to see, I won’t really have a choice. I’m sure as time goes on, they will expand their library or so we can hope.
Jennie: They can’t rival other sites yet, and those other sites also give us a wider range of Asian countries to pick from. This is honestly the one thing I don’t mind as I know they’re new and will acquire more over time.
KMUSE: I am very pleased with the quality of their videos. The HD is top notch and I did not have any buffering issues. Something that I can’t say in regards to VIKI and Dramafever (I have subscriptions to both sites so hypothetically the HD and streaming should all be equal, but it isn’t)
Kdrama Jen: I have had an excellent experience with the quality of streaming. I often have to wait for buffering on other sites. I did not have that experience here.
Dramarookie: The quality is fine, but it’s happened to me twice that a video cuts off abruptly at the end before the episode finishes. Even if the story is basically done, I want those last 15 seconds of fade-out. Otherwise, it’s jarring.
CLSunbae: Quality was good enough but I didn’t think it was noticeably better than DF or VIKI. PLUS I can actually stream the other sites to my TV but I can’t with Kocowa, so even with possibly better streaming, that didn’t translate into a better viewing experience since I had to curl up with my iPad instead of enjoying on my big screen.
Karie the Maknae: OK, is this where I get to vent? Because I’m venting. I’m using a Chromebook to access KOCOWA, just like I access DF. Can I stream anything? Big FAT NO. Every time I try (and I even signed up for a subscription to see if *that* was the issue), it tells me that what I want to watch is available on the mobile app. WHAT. I went through the very minimal FAQ, but it was no help. Neither was Google. It’s possible I missed something, but I’m very frustrated at this point and have let it go until I can think more rationally.
Drama Geek: I did experience a lot of buffering during the first episode I watched, but the other ones weren’t as bad. My internet can lag a lot on the weekend, but I wasn’t having issues on other sites so I assume it was just KOCOWA.
Jennie: I’ve never had buffering issues with other sites, but I did with them. It took almost five minutes of watching scratchy quality for the HD to right itself when trying School 2017 the other day. Not cool.
English sub quality
KMUSE: The subs were OK. Not VIKI level quality, but not as bad as Dramafever’s. I think I would have to watch longer to really make a complete comparison. There is nothing worse than the subbers dumbing down everything because they think an American audience can’t understand what a noona or hyung are.
Kdrama Jen: The subs are adequate. I like the way VIKI subs explain colloquial language or figures of speech. I have not seen that on KOCOWA.
Dramarookie: Totally agree with KMUSE. My pet peeve is when DF translates “oppa” as the character’s name. You lose the nuance. My problem with the subs is not in the translation. Again, it’s happened on more than one occasion that there are no subs when it starts. I get confused and check the settings, but English is picked. The trick I discovered is this: If you drag the episode button halfway into the episode and then drag it back to the beginning, the subs appear on the next go-around.
Telzeytalks: I tried KOCOWA at the free level just to see what it was like. They let you have it on four devices so I got it on a laptop, ipad, and iphone. Most of the shows were locked, but I played Weightlifting Fairy on the phone; the sound and video quality were good but I couldn’t get subtitles.
CLSunbae: For me, the subtitles were finicky. I had to turn them off and back on for every show I tried to watch to get them to come up.
Karie the Maknae: SURE WISH I COULD COMMENT HERE. *grumble grumble*
Drama Geek: I’ve only watched one show on it, Father is Strange, and the subs seemed okay to me. It’s hard to tell though because where Dramafever fails the most is with little things that an English speaker might not catch that then totally confuse the plot or story. (Ho Gu’s Love is a prime example. “That thing” being translated as “condom”.) So it’ll probably take a while of watching to see if the people they’ve contracted are more like DF or not.
Jennie: I disliked the subs. They changed an “Aigoo” to, “What was that about?”. Which seriously? Now you can’t trust us enough to make our own assumptions about the characters reactions based on their acting? It wasn’t the worst, but it did bother me.
How easy is it to navigate the site?
KMUSE: I think this is the weakest aspect of the site. It is very simplistic and not at all engaging for the user. I also see this as the aspect of the site which will probably change the most in the future. So only time will fix this issue.
Kdrama Jen: This is not an intuitive platform. It is not easy to find specific shows and I found the way the site is organized to be cumbersome. I like to be able to clearly see all of the trending shows. I also really want a 15 second fast forward and rewind button. I never realized how much I use those until I did not have access to them.
Dramarookie: Ditto. Ditto. Especially the fast-forward and rewind!
Telzeytalks: When I first downloaded to my phone, there was a search button at the top and a slider across the bottom to find shows. Last night, it was inaccessible while it upgraded. Now it is like the ipad and has a menu of three categories across the top, a pop-out menu with other categories under the “hamburger” button in the top left corner, and the search button in the top right. Once you choose a category you can scroll down a screenful at a time. This shows they are doing updates and will probably deal with shortcomings pretty quickly.
CLSunbae: Agree with everyone else. I found it bulky and unimpressive. I was especially frustrated that it would list on the main page specific episodes of a show and there was no way for me to click on that to get to the full list of episodes (so I could start at the beginning). It was not intuitive at all. In addition, when I paused a show and came back later, it didn’t save my spot and, as mentioned, there’s no easy fast forward or rewind buttons, so finding my place again was a pain.
Karie the Maknae: Initially, the website felt like Netflix or DF’s revamped site. But as I tried to delve into different shows, etc., it got really cumbersome. Plus, having the episodes in reverse order just didn’t make sense to me. I much prefer DF’s episode lists.
Jennie: I signed up for the one month free, and I expect a premium account to show me what I watched last and where I was. None of that was obvious on the main page. Also, when finishing an episode the next episode available didn’t load. I had to search for it. Really?? When I did find it, the captions didn’t work. I actually ended up going to Viki out of frustration, until I figured out that I had to turn the captions completely off then back on again to get them working. User friendly? Nope. Major fail.
KMUSE: Have not had any reason to contact so I can’t comment on this one.
Kdrama Jen: As I was researching KOCOWA, I did reach out to customer service. I found them extremely responsive and willing to answer my questions.
Dramarookie: Finally, something I can rave about. When I contacted them about getting the code for an extra free month, I wasn’t holding out much hope. Surprise! Not only did they supply the code, but sent me two of their promotional fans for free. I think the customer service office closes on the weekends. But whenever I contact them through Facebook during the week, they usually answer within a few hours with a positive and cheerful response. Their customer service rocks!
Karie the Maknae: Given that everyone else had a positive experience with customer service, I might contact them. AFTER I’m done with my tantrum. #maknaeprivileges
Access on multiple platforms & Countries
****At this point KOCOWA is only available for North America where we all live. They claim that it will be expanding. This sadly, does not help everyone else who would like to watch these dramas legally.
KMUSE: The biggest negative for me is not being able to stream on more than one device at a time. With multiple viewers in a house, this can be super annoying. As for the 4 devices being able to register…. most streaming sites have similar rules in place, including VIKI and Dramafever. The only difference is only one device being able to stream at a time.
Kdrama Jen: THIS is where I will focus most of my grumpy pants comments. We have multiple shows streaming at the same time in my home. I NEED to be able to stream from different devices. Also, I want a Roku app. I used to watch my shows huddled over my iPad, but as the other streaming sites have come out with smart TV apps, it now changes my viewing experience if I can’t watch Yoo Seung Ho’s soul-gripping crying scenes on the big screen. It’s just not the same on my device.
Dramarookie: Roku app, now! I tried to subvert the problem by using the old-fashioned way of hooking my iPad up to the TV with an adapter. It mirrors what is on the screen. Correction. It’s SUPPOSED to mirror the screen. It doesn’t work with the KOCOWA app. The screen is black, but you can still see the subtitles and hear sound.
Telzeytalks: At our house we watch together using a projector. We tried airplay with KOCOWA, but it was a no go; we got sound but a black screen. So basically it’s not ready. They rolled it out before everything was working. I am not giving up my big picture on the wall for several people trying to watch on a laptop.
CLSunbae: I know I’ve been spoiled by my other streaming services but honestly, I don’t think KOCOWA should have rolled this out before they had that in hand. Actually, many aspects of this whole thing feel rushed. The website, the lack of content, the rollout (I read several sources for Korean entertainment and this site was mentioned precisely NOWHERE in advance. It was mentioned at the G Dragon concert but in a way that made it very unclear what it was. All I knew about it from that was that his concert would be available to watch on it — which, by the way, it’s currently NOT. I had no idea who they were representing or that there’d be Kdramas, too.)
Price for what you get
KMUSE: If I was not a simulcaster I probably would not subscribe to this site. At $6.99/a month it is a good $2 more than VIKI. But I am, and I can’t fathom not watching a good half of the current airing dramas so I will pay. I also think it will become more worth it over the next 6 months as they add their backlog of classics.
Kdrama Jen: I am still skating along with the free service. I am only using the Taste24HR service. As long as I can arrange my schedule to watch new episodes within 24 hours, then it seems to be working. I am currently using it for School 2017. I think I may need to splurge on the membership, though, because a few new dramas are coming out and I won’t be able to watch them all within the one day window.
Dramarookie: Not only am I resistant to change, I’m cost conscious. (Ok. A friend in college called me cheap.) I don’t like how much more it costs than the other services.
CLSunbae: Honestly, I’m insulted as a consumer. I assume these guys did research on their competition, right? So to charge MORE than sites like VIKI and DF, they’d better give me MORE than those sites give me. But it’s less shows, no casting, a clunky video player set up… I’m going to cancel my month trial and check back in a year or so. But they’ve done nothing to impress me or earn my business thus far.
Karie the Maknae: I’m with Dramarookie and CLSunbae. If I’m dropping more money on this, there better be more available. I’ll probably cancel soon and look into adding VIKI instead.
Drama Geek: I am doing what Kdrama Jen is and watching the shows they have on TASTE24HR. I will probably do that with any of the about to air ones, as well. If they end up having most of the new shows coming out, I’ll probably break down and get a month to month.
Jennie: It’s wayyyy too expensive for what you get. I’m not going to pay a penny until they work out more of their bugs.
KMUSE: Is it perfect? No, but then, most things related to finding kcontent aren’t. It will be like any other site or provider and hopefully will improve over time.
Kdrama Jen: I am still reserving judgment. I am not ready to pay for the service yet, but if they offer more proprietary content and offer a Roku app, then I will pay. Watching dramas is my hobby, so even if I am spending $25 per month on multiple streaming sites, it is still a fairly inexpensive hobby compared to something like skiing or competitive biking or stamp collecting. It’s also a lot more fun (in my opinion).
Dramarookie: The service feels half-baked. They should have left it in the oven a little longer and pulled it out when it was fully done, with a Roku app and a bigger catalog. But I appreciate the quick and positive help I’ve received from the staff, which buys them a certain amount of leeway in my book. Plus, they have Running Man. This is the awkward get-to-know-you phase. I’ll stick around for awhile and give our relationship a chance.
CLSunbae: I’m a hard pass at this point. I watch too many Kdramas, I admit, so I’m picturing the guys behind KOCOWA as the greedy, cynical chaebols who don’t care about their consumer. Several things lead me to conclude this: the subpar rollout, the cagey way they handed out the promo code (which ended up not even working for me), the over-charging for what they’re offering and the banking on withholding new shows from us unless we go through them. I’m loyal to Kdramas above anything else, though, so if they prove me wrong in the long run, I’ll jump back on board with full enthusiasm. Right now, however… Bye Felicia.
Karie the Maknae: I have so many other dramas to watch that I’m very willing to wait on KOCOWA until they get their service up to speed and have the ONLY access to a new drama that I just have to watch. Until then, pass for me.
Jennie: I’m really upset that I can only find certain dramas here when the site isn’t doing much for me. I like to do things legally, but if it continues to suck, I may look for other means to get my drama fixes.
If you want to check out KOCOWA for yourself then click HERE. Be sure to come back and tell us about your experience in the comments.
Til next time,