Rakuten expands content, commerce capabilities

Internet services company Rakuten has acquired the global video streaming platform known as Viki as it looks to advance its digital content offerings and extend Internet services to new markets.

Viki is a global TV and video site that uniquely brings primetime TV shows, movies, music videos and other premium video content to new audiences and opens up new markets for content providers, according to a Rakuten statement.  Viki was launched in December 2010 and has about 22 million users in 200 countries who view about 40 million minutes of content each day. The firm’s 50 employees are located at offices in San Francisco, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo.

“Viki is a one-of-kind company with an entirely unique approach to video streaming that is truly global and truly engaging. They are fast, agile, and highly mobile. Their smart and creative approach to bringing popular content to global audiences will enable Rakuten to move quickly into new markets around the world,” said Rakuten chairman and CEO Hiroshi (Mickey) Mikitani. "There are a striking number of synergies and shared philosophies between our two businesses. The Viki model is built on a powerful community, focused on removing the language barriers that have traditionally trapped great content inside geographical borders.”

According to Mikitan, Rakuten was founded on a philosophy of opening up great services, content and goods to a global community and that makes Viki a perfect complement to Rakuten’s joint philosophies of empowerment and shopping “is” entertainment.

“Our vision is very well aligned with Rakuten’s focus on building a borderless digital ecosystem. We’ve built a truly global TV platform, with and for the fans, allowing content owners to reach the world in any language,” said Viki CEO and co-founder Razmig Hovaghimian.

With Rakuten, we can now focus on building an entertainment ecosystem that also seamlessly allows viewers and content partners to jump across platforms, and interact with relevant Rakuten products and services seamlessly, according to Hovaghimian.  Viewers on Viki are able to watch entertainment options they never knew existed as shows are translated into 50 different languages.

With its acquisition, Rakuten plans to leverage Viki’s global footprint, content and language analytics and community-first DNA to further expand the scope of its $16 billion internet services ecosystem. Rakuten and Viki expect exponential growth in Viki’s primary revenue driver, selling advertising against its video content. Viki also syndicates select content and has the potential to launch new revenue models. At the same time, Viki can now leverage Rakuten’s 85 million registered users in Japan and deep digital commerce and media experience to grow its user base in Japan and Europe.

Rakuten began its march into global digital content in 2012 when it acquired Kobo Inc., one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services that now offers four million eBooks, magazines and newspapers to customers in 190 countries. That same year, Rakuten welcomed Wuaki.tv, an innovative Europe-based video-on-demand and streaming service, which recently began its international expansion beyond Spain by offering customers in the UK its premier movie titles catalogue and unique hybrid payment model. Viki perfectly complements Wuaki.tv’s front-line strategy and extends Rakuten’s digital content offering to include international primetime and mid-and long-tail content from leading broadcasters and distributors.

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