Rakuten adds a multi-language video site to its lineup

The Japanese firm plans ot use Viki’s global footprint, language tools and volunteer approach.

Allison Enright

Rakuten Inc. is buying Viki Inc., a video-streaming site that contains TV shows, movies and music videos from around the world and which are translated into a variety of languages by volunteers who add subtitles.

Rakuten says it plans to use Viki’s global footprint, language capabilities and volunteer approach to extend the reach of Rakuten’s Internet services globally. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal. Viki, launched in late 2010 and based in Palo Alto, CA, primarily makes money by selling ads against video content. Viki also syndicates some programs with fan-generated subtitles to digital content sites such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.com, Viki says.

“Their smart and creative approach to bringing popular content to global audiences will enable Rakuten to move quickly into new markets around the world," says Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten chairman and CEO.

Last year, Rakuten acquired Wuaki.tv, a Spanish video streaming company. Rakuten recently launched Wuaki.tv to consumers in the United Kingdom. Rakuten says Viki and Wuaki.tv complement each other and will help add to its digital content offerings, which also includes Kobo Inc., which sells e-books and e-readers. Rakuten acquired Kobo in 2011.

Since 2010 Viki had raised in excess of $24 million from investors that included Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.

Rakuten, which operates the largest online shopping portal in Japan and is the No. 2 e-retailer in all of Asia by sales according to the Asia 500, has made numerous investments in digital companies in recent months. In August, Rakuten Marketing, a division of Rakuten Inc., acquired PopShops, a Seattle-based technology company that sends product data to comparison shopping and coupon sites. In May, Rakuten acquired a majority stake in online marketplace TheGrommet.com, and last year it led a $100 million funding round in social network Pinterest.

As part of an aggressive international expansion strategy, Rakuten in 2010 bought U.S. online discount retailer Buy.com. The Japanese company has since rebranded it Rakuten Shopping and converted it into an online marketplace that hosts other merchants’ shops but does not sell on its own behalf, adopting the business model of Rakuten Japan.



Asia 500, e-commerce, Hiroshi Mikitani, international marketing, online videos, Rakuten, Viki, Wuaki.tv