Rakuten acquires Viki for international expansion

Michelle Clancy | 03-09-2013

Tokyo-based Rakuten has signed an agreement to acquire the San Francisco-based video streaming platform, Viki. Rakuten plans to use the acquisition to shore up its digital content offerings and launch its Internet services ecosystem into new markets.

Viki offers a crowd-sourced method of subtitling prime time TV shows, movies, music videos and other premium video content to open up entirely new markets for content providers. Through its social TV and subtitling intellectual property, Viki's community of viewers have crowd-sourced subtitles in more than 160 languages and translated more than 400 million words to date.
"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," said Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and co-founder. "Since our foundation, Rakuten's focus too has been to open up great services, content and goods to a global community. Viki is a perfect complement to Rakuten's joint philosophies of Empowerment and Shopping IS entertainment."
With this acquisition, Rakuten plans to leverage Viki's global footprint, content and language analytics to further expand the scope of its $16 billion Internet services ecosystem. Rakuten will continue to develop Viki's primary revenue driver, selling advertising against its video content. Viki also syndicates some 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.
Hovaghimian added: "While viewers get to enjoy great entertainment they never knew existed anywhere, anytime and in their language, content owners get to reach a globally fragmented market, and increase the size of their target market multiple-fold through localisation. Focusing on both content providers and fans has allowed us to reach traditional TV like ratings online, with top shows getting translated in more than 50 languages."
The Viki acquisition complements the 2012 buy of Wuaki.tv, the 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.