Rakuten has confirmed that it will acquire Viki, a global video streaming platform that crowdsources translated subtitles. The Japanese e-commerce giant, which is expected to sign an agreement to buy Viki tomorrow, did not disclose financial terms, but is reportedly paying $200 million.
The acquisition of Viki is another strong signal that Rakuten is positioning its $16 billion Internet services ecosystem as a competitor to Amazon and Netflix. Over the past two years, Rakuten has acquired e-reader services provider Kobo and European streaming video platform Wuaki.tv. Kobo recently launched three new Android-based tablets and an e-reader in a bid to take on Amazon’s Kindle series, while Wuaki.tv’s new iPad and Android apps are meant to compete with Amazon’s LOVEFiLM subsidiary and Netflix.
Based in Singapore, Viki operates similarly to Hulu.com by offering premium content such as primetime TV shows and movies. Its advantage over other on-demand video services is crowdsourced subtitles from 22 million users in more than 160 languages, which allows Viki’s content providers to quickly enter new markets.
In July, Viki added Blake Krikorian, founder of Sling Media and now corporate VP at Microsoft overseeing XBox, and Dave Goldberg, CEO of Survey Monkey, as strategic investors. Viki’s existing investors included Andreessen Horowitz and more, having raised $24.3 million in publicly-disclosed funding.
In a statement, Rakuten chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said, “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.”
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