Somewhere in Turkey, someone is working on a hit TV show right now — a show that viewers in the U.S. could fall in love with, if they only had the chance to see it. That’s the core belief behind Viki, explained Viki CEO and co-founder Razmig Hovaghimian during a phone call Wednesday. Viki takes content from all over the world, licenses it cheaply and brings it to the U.S. and elsewhere. “We are the Hulu for the rest of the world,” Hovaghimian said.
Starting this week, Viki is going to get its content in front of even more eyeballs: The company is going to announce a partnership with Amazon (s AMZN) Thursday that will add more than 1000 hours of entertainment from Japan and Korea to Amazon’s Prime Instant catalog. Viki previously struck similar syndication agreements with Hulu, Netflix (s NFLX) and YouTube, (s GOOG) and is also distributing its content on its own site, as well as through sites like MSN, (s MSFT) Yahoo (s YHOO) and China’s Renren.
The idea to bring hit TV shows from foreign markets to the U.S. is something that’s getting a lot of attention these days. Viki’s competitors Dramafever and Crunchyroll both follow a similar approach, and are both working on expanding their content offerings and international footprints. Hovaghimian had a lot of praise for both companies, but said that Viki’s model is a bit different.
For one thing, Viki doesn’t concentrate on any particular niche. Instead, it licenses from all over the world, and listens to its community for suggestions on what they want to see next. That community of 20 million also helps Viki with its crowdsourced subtitling approach: The site offers its own online subtitles editor, which community members have used to transcribe and translate a total of more than 320 million words in 156 languages.
The other big difference between Viki and other sites in the space is that Viki doesn’t rely on any kind of subscription model. Viki syndicates its content to Amazon and other partners, but the majority of revenue comes from advertising. Hovaghimian said that he can get Hulu-like CPMs, thanks in large part to a partnership with the BBC, which took part in the company’s Series B. Folks from the BBC have been instrumental in helping Viki with its ad sales, he explained.
The interesting thing about Viki’s approach is that these high CPM rates come at a much lower cost than what Hulu has to pay for a lot of its content. Viki only licenses content outside of the market it was originally produced for. Hovaghimian called this idea “content arbitrage”: The company licenses content cheaply, opens up additional markets for content owners, and gets premium ad rates for it. “The content costs themselves are pretty much negligible,” he told me — which can make that Turkish TV show really, really profitable.