Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten has launched tablets apps on iOS and Android to support the launch of its Wuaki video streaming service in the U.K. and Spain. The apps allow users of the service to purchase and stream content over Wi-Fi direct to their iPad or Android device. 3G streaming is not supported.
The Android version of the app can be used on various sizes of tablets and (some) smartphones since it automatically adjusts the screen resolution to optimise the experience for different screen sizes — Rakuten notes that the Android interface has been designed to adjust to 4-inch, 7-inch and 10-inch devices. (NB: The Google Play listing for the app warns that some Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note device users “have reported issues with content playback”.)
The apps launch follows hot on the heels of Wuaki.tv’s beta launch in the U.K. last month — the first stop in a planned European expansion for the service, after its home market of Spain. Rakuten acquired the Spain-based video streaming startup in June last year for an undisclosed amount — evidently to spearhead a push into Europe. The service had amassed more than 600,000 users in Spain at the time it was bought.
Wuaki.tv launched in the U.K. with availability on Internet-connected PCs and Macs but CEO Jacinto Roca told TechCrunch last month that support for additional devices would be added “over the summer”, specifically naming games consoles, smartTVs and tablets — the latter category has now been checked off, but the other two are still listed as “coming soon” on Wuaki’s website:
Wuaki.tv’s twist vs rival streaming services is to offer both a subscription streaming service (priced at £5.99 per month, or a £2.99 special offer for early birds during its beta) — which gives unlimited access to its catalogue — and an a la carte style option allowing users to rent or purchase individual items from the catalogue. It’s hoping this hybrid model gives it an edge against more established streaming rivals in Europe.
In the U.K., Wuaki.tv competes with other online streaming services including Amazon (via its LOVEFiLM subsidiary) and Netflix, plus broadcaster offerings such as Sky and direct broadcaster streaming options such as the BBC’s iPlayer.
Wuaki is not currently breaking out exact numbers for the size of its catalogue, saying only that it contains “thousands” of items. In any case, quality is key to pulling in the streaming punters — hence Netflix’s focus on investing in its own original programming, and the fierce competition among streaming players to secure licensing rights from big name studios.
Video entertainment services rise or fall on the calibre of their catalogue so Wuaki is going to need to work hard to undercut rivals on price and disrupt them on flexibility — assuming it can’t outbid them to grab the juiciest content.