Tokyo and San Francisco – Rakuten, Inc., one of the world’s largest internet services companies, has announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire global video streaming platform Viki. The acquisition represents a significant step forward for Rakuten as it continues to add to its digital content offerings and launch its internet services ecosystem into new markets. Viki CEO and co-founder Razmig Hovaghimian said that Viki operates independently and that there will be no changes to manpower.
Viki is a global TV and video site that brings primetime TV shows, movies, music videos and other video content to new audiences and opens up new markets for content providers. Through its social TV and subtitling intellectual property, Viki’s community of viewers have crowdsourced subtitles in more than 160 languages and translated more than 400 million words to date.
Rakuten Chairman and CEO, Hiroshi (Mickey) Mikitani, commented on the deal:
“Viki is a one-of-kind company with an entirely unique approach to video streaming that is truly global, truly engaging, and is going to completely disrupt the industry and the legacy players. Their smart approach to bringing popular content to global audiences will enable Rakuten to move quickly into new markets around the world.”
“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. 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.”
“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.”
The Viki model has allowed us to unlock a massive torso of untapped demand. 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.”
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. I am thrilled to enter our next phase of growth as part of the Rakuten family, creating a service that competes with the largest industry players.”
With this acquisition, Rakuten plans to leverage Viki’s global footprint, content and language analytics and community-first DNA to 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 to Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and other sites 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 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.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.