Global TV and movie streaming service Viki wants to bring Bollywood to the world. The company added around 500 movies, TV shows and other titles to its catalog this week, and Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and co-founder, told me during an interview that he plans to add more titles in the near future.
Part of Hovaghimian’s interest in Bollywood is personal. Growing up in Cairo, he remembers that his dad would bring home Bollywood movies and kids would sort of sing along to them without understanding the lyrics. “It’s especially dear to me,” he said. But for Viki, Bollywood is also one of many genres that the service plans to add over the coming months.
Viki is one of a handful of startups betting on content arbitrage, cheaply buying foreign movies and TV shows to stream them to audiences outside of their home markets. One of the most popular genres for Viki, which attracts more than 33 million users a month, has been Korean dramas. The service also has Taiwanese dramas, Chinese movies and telenovelas, and is constantly experimenting with content from new markets.
Hovaghimian told me that he typically tests the waters and then waits for responses from the community to come in. Viki uses volunteers from the community for translated subtitles, so it can quickly gauge the interest not just among casual viewers but hardcore fans, and it’s employing a team of data scientists to further make sense of viewing and engagement patterns.
Sometimes, those results can be surprising. Hovaghimian said that he didn’t expect content from Thailand to be that popular, and he cited Colombia and Turkey as two other countries that aren’t usually on the map for content acquisitions, but have gotten a lot of attention from Viki’s users. At the moment, Viki is heavily invested in content from about half a dozen regions, but eventually it wants to scale that model to around 40 different regions.
Viki is getting help with this expansion from Rakuten. The Japanese e-commerce giant acquired Viki about a year ago, and Hovaghimian said that Viki has since been able to double its workforce. With the new staff, Viki wants to also expand onto additional TV platforms in the coming months.