Singapore startup Viki aims to take local TV global

by jeremy on May 24, 2012

Viki has long interested me and their deal with Warner offered a news peg: 

Who would want to watch a South Korean soap that was a flop back home?

Lots of people, it turns out – something that Singapore-based startup Viki feels vindicates its business model: an ad-supported streaming TV and movie site where unpaid fans add the foreign subtitles.

“We call it content arbitrage,” said Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and co-founder. “Ninety percent of content is trapped within borders. We’re taking things that aren’t travelling and making them go places.”

The service plays on a number of trends both in Asia and worldwide: a passion for watching video over the Internet; a growing interest in content from other countries; and the emergence of more sophisticated software to spread the burden of laborious tasks like subtitling.

Viki provides a platform that pulls together two traditional strangers: broadcasters and other video producers who license out content to territories where there are no existing rights with local broadcasters, and volunteer “fansubbers” who translate and write subtitles in any language they want.

Viki then inserts ads and provides the streaming service, and shares the ad revenue with the broadcasters.

Take, for example, that Korean flop, “Playful Kiss”. Ratings sank below 5 percent when it was aired during primetime in Korea in 2010, says Hovaghimian, when a top drama might capture up to 30 percent of viewers. But on Viki it topped the site’s charts for several months and was translated into 56 languages.

The company behind the show made “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in ad revenue and was able to secure rebroadcast deals with 10 countries it would otherwise never have reached, Hovaghimian said. The broadcaster wasn’t eating into existing audiences, it was finding value in new ones. “We’re increasing the size of the pie for you, we’re not cannibalizing,” he says.

Rest of the story: Singapore startup Viki aims to take local TV global | Reuters

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