Rakuten continues acquisition trail with Viki purchase

Ecommerce giant Rakuten has agreed to acquire video-streaming service Viki in a deal reported to be worth up to $200m, as the Japan-based company seeks to use digital content to help aid its international expansion.


Rakuten has confirmed the purchase but neither party has disclosed the full financial details of the deal, although media reports value the planned transaction at $200m. Currently there are no details over how Viki will be assimilated into the commerce giant’s organisation.

Viki is a global TV and video streaming service, similar to Netflix and Hulu, that helps content providers tap into new audiences by crowdsourcing translations of foreign-language content. So far Viki’s viewers have helped subtitle over 400 million words in over 160 languages, according to the company.

Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten CEO, says: “They [Viki] are fast, agile, and highly mobile. Their smart and creative approach to bringing popular content to global audiences will enable Rakuten to move quickly into new markets around the world.

“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.”

Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO, says: “The Viki model has allowed us to unlock a massive torso of untapped demand.

“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.”

Rakuten believes the purchase will bolster its digital advertising revenues and also claims the purchase brings with it “the potential to launch new revenue models”.

Rakuten is listed as the third-largest ecommerce company across the globe and has been expanding outside of its Japanese base for almost a decade through a series of purchases and joint ventures. This process has involved the $250m purchase of US-based Buy.com in 2012, plus the 2012 acquisition of UK-based Play.com for £25m, as well as last year’s purchase of e-Reader company Kobo.

Earlier this year it was revealed earlier this year that Rakuten would close down RakutenPlay.com’s its core retail business to focus solely on being a marketplace.