Unless you have an unlimited source of wealth, you’re probably always trying to decide which streaming service will give you the most bang for your buck to watch Asian dramas.
A lot depends on you catching deals on each site to make having all (or some) of them a little more affordable. So keep your eyes open for discounts and deals and plan accordingly.
Which streaming sites to use
Where you choose to watch also depends on which country’s shows you want to watch. If you only watch Korean non-cable TV, then Kocowa is probably all you need. If you want to also watch Korean cable TV shows and shows from Taiwan, China, or Japan you’ll need to subscribe to other sites. Here are a few of the most popular ad-free with a subscription and free with ads content providers: Kocowa, Viki, Netflix, Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Crunchyroll and Asian Crush.
Answering the following questions can help you narrow down which provider is a match for you.
How long have you been watching Asian drama?
If you’ve been watching for a while, you’ve probably seen many of the older dramas and prefer to see currently airing shows. Kocowa, Viki and Netflix are your best bets for those.
If you’re an Asian Drama newbie, Viki has older shows, currently airing shows and shows from many countries including Japan. Netflix also has older shows mostly from Taiwan, but there is plenty of Korean, Chinese and Thai content as well. If you don’t mind ads, Asian Crush and Tubi are free alternatives with some older dramas. If you already have an Amazon Prime or Hulu subscription, you can find some older shows and movies but selection is limited and neither seem to be updating with newer shows.
Do you only watch Korean content?
If you do then a subscription to Kocowa or Viki should be enough for you to enjoy all you want.
Do you like Korean cable TV shows?
Netflix and Viki are your best options for these. Kocowa only has content produced by the three big Korean networks — MBC, KBS and SBS.
Do you watch variety shows and reality TV?
You need Kocowa. Or the Viki Pass Plus subscription which includes Kocowa. Fair warning the Viki Pass Plus doesn’t get shows subbed as quickly as Kocowa.
Do you enjoy watching currently airing shows week to week?
You definitely need Viki if you watch content from all over Asia. Netflix, however, has an increasing number of currently airing Asian shows under their original programming umbrella. For Korean content only, Kocowa will meet your needs.
If you’re interested in Japanese content
Well, this one was a challenge even before Dramafever exited the scene. Japan is notoriously protective of sharing shows that aren’t anime or horror movies. Both genres are easy to find on Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll. For older dramas, Crunchyroll still has a handful and Viki has stepped up by adding newer completed dramas recently. Netflix has a few completed Japanese dramas including the popular Good Morning Call.
For currently airing dramas you’re going to have to find them on sites I affectionately call “The Outlaws.”
There are tons of websites that may or may not be operating within the legal parameters of the country in which they are located. I’ll not list those here. It’s up to you to get some like-minded, drama-watching friends to get you informed. I will caution that if this is the route you take, make sure to be armed with ad blocking software, and real-time malware, ransomware and privacy protection. Especially if you download content to your computer or tablet. And finally, be prepared to chase them around the internet. Web addresses change unexpectedly. If you’re a fan of Japanese shows and movies, these sites are your best bet to enjoy them.
YouTube the Asian Drama outlier
One other option to stream A-drama is YouTube. If you enjoy shows from Southeast Asia such as from Thailand or the Philippines, YouTube often has then for free and subbed in English. You just have to search for them. Some networks like GMM have a channel and playlists organized for each show. Some Thai favorites like Full House and Kiss Me have full episodes with English subtitles on YouTube. There are also some Japanese classics out there, but English subs can be iffy.
Your devices might make a difference
Before you hit the payment button on a service, make sure your streaming device of choice has an app for your favorite site if you like streaming to a not smart TV. For example, Kocowa has a Roku app in beta right now, but not an Apple TV app. Also, if you like to download shows for on the go, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the Outlaws are your best bets.
Good luck finding your Asian Drama sweet spot. Happy drama watching!