Yandex Buys KinoPoisk, ‘Russia’s IMDb’, To Move Into Film Search And Recommendation

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Yandex, the search company often referred to as the Google of Russia, is today announcing its latest acquisition: KinoPoisk, an online film database known as “the IMDb of Russia” (after the Amazon-owned company that KinoPoisk recreated in Russia) with some 18.6 million visitors per month.

The move is a sign of how Yandex, following a route well walked by Google, is widening its bigger search service with another vertical category. The plan is to combine Yandex’s own search and personalization algorithms with KinoPoisk’s database to create a video recommendation service. This will include not just things to watch at home, combined with Yandex’s mapping services, places to go see them if the film in question is showing at a nearby cinema, with the option to buy a ticket — or buy the video direct from Yandex itself.

“Yandex is focused on providing the most comprehensive answers to users’ questions, including by offering them relevant recommendations,” said Dmitriy Stepanov, Head of Media Services at Yandex, in a statement. “More and more often, consumers are turning to the Internet to get ideas on what movies and TV shows to watch. In order to provide high quality answers, we need to have deep knowledge of the subject matter. KinoPoisk has a huge collection of Russian-language information about films, serials actors and directors, as well as users’ and experts’ reviews amassed over many years.”

For now, KinoPoisk continue to exist at is own eponymous site, but it looks like longer term the team behind the service (and possibly the service itself) will be integrated into Yandex.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but earlier this year, when KinoPoisk backer AlloCine was looking to sell its 40% stake, the company was valued at some $50 million and we understand that this is roughly the valuation today. Other past investors in the company, founded in 2003, included DST’s Yuri Milner (who sold his stake to AlloCine in 2009). In addition to KinoPoisk, the remaining 60% was owned by the two co-founders, Vitaly Tatsiy and Dmitry Sukhanov.

KinoPoisk’s 18.6 million monthly audience ranks it as the 14th-largest site in Russia, according to comScore. Like IMDb — the co-founders intentionally set out to create a version in Russian — the site aggregates all information video-related, including an archive directory of older video releases from film and TV, celebrity and entertainment news, trailers, film reviews, and tickets for live shows.

It will bring not just a new vertical into Yandex’s search services but also a dedicated audience for them. The site’s lifeblood are user-generated movie reviews and ratings, of which there are some 100 million already, with some 3 million new ones coming each month.

“Over the years, KinoPoisk has amassed an extremely comprehensive database of film information and recommendations,” said Tatsiy in a statement. “Yandex’s vast resources and technological expertise will help us to bring the recommendation service to a new level, extend its capabilities much more quickly and reach more cinema fans on a wide range of devices and platforms.”

Longer term, there were reports before today that KinoPoisk would make a move into hosting more video content of its own rather than sending users elsewhere to view it. That looks like something that Yandex plans, too. We understand that the search giant is currently in talks with “all major providers” of premium video services in Russia as it tries to put such a service in place. (Those providers include Ivi.ru, Gazprom’s RuTube and others.) Indeed, Yandex has been building out its premium content services in other areas, too, such as with its Yandex.Music streamed audio offering.

This deal comes on the heels of several other investments and acquisitions at Yandex. They include a $1 million, 25% stake in geophysics company Seismotech in June 2012; the purchase of SPB Software in December 2011; and the sale of some 75% of its Yandex.Money payment service to Sberbank in July 2013.