On smartphone screens worldwide, Kim Yubin and Lee Sunmi of famous Korean pop (K-pop) quartet Wonder Girls greet V users with singsong voices and peace hand signs. The two young celebrities banter playfully, amidst girly giggles, while fans litter the comments board with coloured hearts, compliments and ㅋㅋㅋ, which indicates laughter in Korean.
V is South Korean conglomerate Naver’s app gift to the smartphone wielding K-pop fan world. Recently made available on iOS App Store, and first released for the Android market in July 2015, the video streaming app showcases exclusive behind-the-scenes videos of Korean celebrities from pop groups like SNSD and BIGBANG.
The launch itself — on both mobile platforms — was seen as successful. Chloe Choi, Public Relations Officer and Senior Manager, Naver, told e27 that 610,000 users from 170 countries downloaded and installed the app on their smartphones on the first day V was made available for Android devices. On August 4, more than 80,000 fans tuned in to watch a video of popular boys band BIGBANG. Many of them probably got to know about the new broadcasting app through K-pop forums and media outlets covering the music genre.
One user, who wished to stay anonymous, told this author, “(V) allows us (fans) a peek into behind the scenes since they upload their backstage scenes or before or after their concerts which we would otherwise not be privy to.” With that fulfilled, the natural next step for V is getting celebrities to interact with fans on the platform. “That’ll keep them coming,” she said.
Another user, who can only be identified as Krystal, left a review on the iOS App Store, professing her gratitude while noting the bugs found: “the ios ver is finally released !! thank you so much for this platform for us to interact with all the kpop stars (: i really love this app ~ when live however, the app lags a lot. and there is a problem that i really wish you will solve/change !! in the celebs’ homepages, the videos will disappear after some time/with addition of videos. please don’t let that happen TT TT but i still love it ! it’s a first for the k industry for such an app, thank you ! i hope you solve the problems !!!” (Sic) For that many problems, she still left a five-star rating.
“It is pissing me off!” read one of the few other reviews left on the app’s iOS page. The user, who rated the app as a five-star title, added, “A great app but need to be fully English subbed pls!”
At the moment, Naver has a dedicated team of 30 members working on V. “This size is not big compared with other teams in Naver,” said Choi, who added that V is still a “test version” and that “Naver is very cautious about committing to something for V”.
However, going forward, a more stable version of V will be released. Not only will there be more K-pop stars on the platform, Naver is also looking to get foreign celebrities on board, said Choi.
Meanwhile, many celebrities have already gotten used to the idea of broadcasting themselves — the “secret” self that the media cannot manipulate and put words in their mouths — in video to fans who want to see who their idols really are. In the last three years, many livestreaming platforms have become increasingly popular with the mainstream crowd, especially with mobile taking an even bigger chunk of the current device market share, even though there are niche websites available before that, like Twitch.tv for gamers. That’s why we see stories like “Justin Bieber plays with his nipples on Snapchat“, Jimmy Fallon broadcasting his Tonight Show rehearsal on Meerkat and Jamie Oliver cooks on Periscope. Fans can interact with these celebrities in real-time and vice versa.
Even politicians look to livestreaming to connect with potential voters: Taiwanese real-time video platform LIVEhouse.in was said to have hosted Ko Wen-Je, the now-mayor of Taipei, during his campaign, according to TechCrunch. The article noted that Sega Cheng, CEO and Co-founder, LIVEhouse.in, said that Ko drew in 400,000 viewers in two days, with each user watching for over 11 minutes. The platform is available on the web, and iOS and Android devices.
I opened the V app again, probably for the last time because I am not a fan of K-pop, and watched as stars reacted to a multitude of comments from fans. These posts would appear on the screen in real-time, and came in different languages; one user wrote in Mandarin that she’s from China, another penned Korean about how cute the celebrity is, and one other die-hard fan professed her love in English. One male pop idol from 2PM was all dolled up and seemed to be filming with his smartphone during a break. He strolled around in the studio, crowded with other dolled up idols. All of them spoke candidly, and waved hello to the camera.
“It’s that dichotomy of wanting the idols to be approachable, cultivating that mindset of them being “attainable” so to speak so as to ensure fan loyalty… and also placing them on a pedestal so they’re human but not too human, just a tad better and out of your grasp and shrouded in that unattainable mystery,” concluded the same anonymous user.