June 20, 2012, 9:51 AM

Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten buys an online video company

Wuaki.tv of Spain represents Rakuten’s fourth European acquisition in two years.  

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Rakuten, a Japan-based e-commerce operator, has snapped up Spanish video streaming company Wuaki.tv for an undisclosed sum. This is the first time Rakuten has entered the Spanish market, but it is the fourth European acquisition the Japanese company has made in the past two years.

Rakuten says it was attracted to Wuaki.tv because the Barcelona-based company has numerous content distribution agreements with Hollywood studios as well as local studios, and partnership agreements with TV manufacturers to incorporate its technology into their televisions. Wuaki.tv streams premium content over the Internet to compatible TVs, similar to what is done by Netflix.

“The Wuaki.tv management team and technology are both very strong, as is the number and strength of its relationships across the video and hardware industries,” says Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten. “We saw synergies in the ambition of both businesses to expand internationally while video on demand extends our digital goods offering. We also both believe the opportunity for video on demand services across Europe, as well as further afield, to still be in its infancy—particularly when looking at media consumption via mobile connected devices and e-readers.”

Western Europe is yet to catch up with the video-on-demand market in the United States. U.S. consumers spent $1.8 billion on streaming feature films in 2011, whereas the Western Europe market amounted to just $900 million, according to IHS Screen Digest.

Rakuten’s main e-commerce web site, Rakuten Ichiba, is the one of the largest e-commerce sites in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales, according to the company. Rakuten has expanded its global presence in recent years through the acquisitions of eReader, Kobo, Buy.com (U.S.), PriceMinister (France), Ikeda (now Rakuten Brasil), Tradoria (now Rakuten Deutschland) and Play.com (U.K.). The company has also invested in Pinterest, Ozon.ru and AHA Life.  

Wuaki.tv was founded in 2009 and is a large streaming and video on demand businesses in Spain, where demand for its services have recently been increasing, according to the company.

“We are already seeing a significant uptake of services due to increasing numbers of (Internet-enabled) TVs and mobile devices and believe that, ultimately, online video will replace traditional pay-for-TV services,” says Jacinto Roca, founder and CEO of Wuaki.tv. “This agreement will allow us to expand the successful Wuaki.tv offering, both in terms of services and geographical reach.”

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