Viki, a streaming video platform that crowdsources translated subtitles, will launch a beta version of its site for Japanese viewers tomorrow. The announcement comes five months after Tokyo-based Rakuten paid a reported $200 million for Viki, which is based in Singapore.
In a press release, Rakuten said:
“The launch is a natural transition of the company’s acquisition by Rakuten in September 2013, and marks the first step in Rakuten’s move to bring together Viki’s global content, language and community-first DNA to expand the scope of Rakuten’s $16 billion digital content and e-commerce business.”
Japanese viewers can use Rakuten IDs (which is similar to Facebook Connect) to log onto Viki Japan, which will have free TV shows and movies from around the world. translated into Japanese. These include “Boys Before Friends,” an American remake of “Hana Yori Dango,” a popular Japanese manga.
Other offerings include Korean drama “20′s,” Chinese shows like “Group of Women” and Colombian telenovelas such a “Broken Promises.”
The service’s premium version, called Viki Pass, will cost 400 yen (about $3.99) a month, and supports ad-free and HD video streaming across multiple devices, along with exclusive content.
Rakuten said it will continue to bring Viki, which is already used by viewers in 200 countries, to new markets. The service now has three billion video streams and its users have translated more than 450 million words so far.
This announcement is the latest one in a busy week for Rakuten that has included the acquisition of Viber for $900 million; a $3.5 million investment in image recognition startup ViSenze; and the opening of its first European R&D center. Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has said that he wants the company to “become the world’s No. 1 Internet services company.”