Rakuten TV Inks Alchimie Deal to Increase FAST Channel Access Across Europe

Spain-based free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) service Rakuten TV Sept. 2 announced a content license deal with French-based Alchimie to expand the latter’s channels across Europe.

The new channels — HUMANITY, Luxe TV, MMA TV, Big Names, Motorsport TV, Télézap, Explore by TVPlayer and Krime — will be available in multiple territories across Rakuten TV’s 42-country footprint. L’Atelier des Chefswhich has already launched as part of Rakuten TV’s new culinary channels, also is available. More Alchimie channels will be added to the Rakuten TV portfolio in the near future.

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“Partnering with Alchimie is another milestone in our European expansion and reinforces our commitment to deliver localized and relevant content to all audiences,” Teresa López, head of content at Rakuten TV, said in a statement

“Alchimie is in an excellent position to provide Rakuten TV with entertaining themed channels across Europe with regularly refreshed, high-quality content in local languages,” added Nicolas d’Hueppe, CEO at Alchimie.

Rakuten TV linear channels are currently accessible for free on the Rakuten TV app on Samsung and LG Smart TV devices. Rakuten TV is part of Rakuten Group, which focuses on e-commerce, digital content, and communications. Rakuten is the official partner for FC Barcelona, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

Rakuten TV Expands AVOD Service Across Europe

Rakuten TV April 27 announced the expansion of its AVOD platform across Europe with the launch of more than 90 channels in 42 markets. The launch represents a further step in the Japanese e-commerce media company’s aim to compete with Amazon Prime and Prime Video in select markets.

Rakuten TV categories include movies, entertainment, lifestyle, music, sports, news, TV shows and kids programming. The platform includes global brands, such as Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Quicktake, CNNi (available in the U.K., Germany and Poland), Euronews (the first live channel integrated into Rakuten TV’s AVOD offer), Qwest TV, Reuters, and Comcast-owned Xumo-powered content, including eight Stingray channels, The Hollywood Reporter channel and top brands from Condé Nast, such as Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired.

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Rakuten TV-owned channels, a broad and varied selection of content curated by categories, based on specific genres and interests, inclue Action, Comedy, Drama, British Films, Family, Documentaries, Thriller, Romance, Spotlight (featuring Rakuten TV original and exclusive content as well as a selection of movies) and Top Free(a selection that highlights the best films currently available on the platform).

“We are eager to contribute once again to the disruption of the entertainment industry with this major step on the growth and innovation on Rakuten TV, which aims to enrich our business model and content offer” Jacinto Roca, founder/CEO at Rakuten TV, said in a statement“At a time when the entertainment sector is living an unprecedented transformation, and consumption habits are constantly evolving, we are striving to adapt our business model to meet users and advertisers needs at once.”

The launch aims to reinforce Rakuten TV’s proposition as the only European platform combining TVOD (transactional video-on-demand), AVOD (advertising video-on-demand) and SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) services. Rakuten TV is available in 43 European countries and currently reaches more than 90 million households due its pre-installed app in many Smart TV manufacturers’ devices and remote controls.

ViacomCBS, Rakuten Ink Streaming, Content, E-Commerce Deal in Japan

ViacomCBS Networks International and Rakuten Group April 20  announced the signing of a long-term agreement, which includes the launch of Nick+, Nickelodeon’s kids’ streaming service, on Rakuten’s video-on-demand platform Rakuten TV in Japan, covering mobile, STB/dongle, Web and smart-TV devices. The partnership also includes the creation of a dedicated Nickelodeon zone on e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba.

“The integration of Nick+ and the Nickelodeon digital storefront into the Rakuten ecosystem will enable us to create an interconnected Nickelodeon experience for consumers and leverage strategic cross-platform promotional opportunities,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, said in a statement.

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Nick+ is planned for launch on Rakuten TV on April 28. Kids and families will be able to watch on demand favorite shows such as “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Paw Patrol,” “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Blue’s Clues & You!,” “Deer Squad,” “The Loud House,” “Game Shakers,” “The Thundermans” and more.

Rakuten will host the first-ever Nickelodeon digital storefront in Asia on Rakuten Ichiba, showcasing a collection of select Nickelodeon products from multiple merchants. Products will cover multiple categories, including fashion, stationery and collectibles. The digital Nickelodeon storefront launch is planned for May.

AVOD Ups Targeted Ad Game

NEWS ANALYSIS — On the heels of ad-supported streaming service Crackle Plus, a joint venture of Sony Pictures Television and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, inking a deal with online ad supplier SpotX, the erstwhile AVOD market (or free ad-supported streaming TV, or FAST) is ratcheting up efforts to deliver targeted viewers to marketers.

Roku is set to acquire Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising business, which includes video automatic content recognition and “dynamic” ad insertion technologies. The acquisition will help accelerate the streaming media device manufacturer’s attempt to offer TV advertisers to select consumers online and linear.

Traditional broadcast audiences have fallen, as SVOD services such as Netflix, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video are ad-free. As a result a market has emerged for FAST services, resulting in new ways to reach audiences and drive revenue for content holders and advertisers alike.

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FAST platforms such as ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV, Comcast-owned Xumo, Fox Corp.-owned Tubi, Amazon-owned IMDb TV, Rakuten TV, and The Roku Channel have developed a new form of streaming TV with upwards of 40 million active monthly viewers streaming curated linear channels supported by VOD programming.

Futuresource Consulting estimates that more than 40% of U.S. online households now regularly use one of the new generation of FAST services, up from around 33% a year ago. NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service has adopted a hybrid SVOD/FAST approach, along with other international broadcasters.

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“[FAST] is particularly appealing to advertisers because it offers little overlap with traditional broadcasters, thus providing incremental reach against the increasing audience of cord cutters,” Mike Laband, SVP of platform at SpotX, said in a statement.

Indeed, the company recently inked a deal with Redbox’s Free Live TV to connect media buyers with content that runs across the SpotX platform, offering supply content in both open and private marketplaces as well as access to exclusive video inventory.

“[SpotX has] valuable insights and expertise in driving programmatic demand and can help us efficiently maximize our platform’s capabilities,” said Terrence Coles, senior director of Redbox Media Network.

Rakuten Viki Launches Private Watch Parties

Asian content-themed SVOD Rakuten Viki Oct.26 announced new software that enables subscribers to host their own private Watch Parties for friends and families in the United States. Following the initial summer rollout, the new feature enables users to schedule their own private viewing sessions from a wide selection of movies and TV shows.

The virtual group watch feature has become all the rage at competing services such as FandangoNow, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV and Hulu. Rakuten Viki’s Watch Party allows viewers to interact without the assistance of auxiliary apps and services. 

By logging into their Rakuten account, users can host their own private Watch Party and join other “parties” for free using a link provided by the host. Currently, the private Watch Party only works with select movies and the first episodes of drama series. Once a Watch Party starts, users can interact with others within the community via a chat board running parallel to the media player, as well as select subtitles and personalize subtitle preferences. In the future, Watch Party plans to expand to all drama episodes, increase content availability, incorporate more community features, and be available in more regions.

“The new feature is … another way for us to bring our community together to engage conversations with each other, especially in the midst of the pandemic,” Cathy Chang, VP of product at Rakuten Viki, said in a statement.

Rakuten Viki, which costs $4.99 a month for ad-supported standard access, and ad-free Plus Pass for $9.99 a month, is currently promoting watch parties around select Halloween movies, including The Wailing and Rampant

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The debut of the new viewing feature comes as Rakuten Viki expands service across 150+ languages. The service has a collection of more than 1,400 TV shows and movies from Korea, Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, and Thailand. Its library includes myriad movies, romantic comedies, K-dramas, and variety shows both current and classic, with many available the day after they air in their origin country.

Subs can find titles such as Korean zombie thriller Train to Busan, Chinese romantic comedy Go Go Squid!, K-Drama Hotel Del Luna, and K-pop survival show “I-LAND.” Rakuten Viki also houses a number of Korean shows that inspired U.S. TV shows, including “The Good Doctor,” which served as the basis for the eponymous series on ABC, and “King of Masked Singer,” which served as a model for Fox TV’s “The Masked Singer.”

Rakuten TV Adds StarzPlay

Online TV platform Rakuten TV is now offering subscribers access to StarzPlay, the Lionsgate/Starz-owned international SVOD service.

Rakuten TV users from Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany will have access to the SVOD service, starting with a free trial, then a monthly fee of £4.99/€4.99/$6.35 . The content will be available within the Rakuten TV app on Smart TVs, web and mobile devices.

“StarzPlay will allow us to enrich our current proposition providing an always more varied and extensive offer within the platform, we are very excited about this new launch,” Teresa López, European content director at Rakuten TV, said in a statement.

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“This multi-territory partnership creates an exciting opportunity for StarzPlay to expand our reach in the marketplace and introduce new audiences to our vast library of compelling series and films,” added Superna Kalle, EVP of International Digital Networks for Starz. “We look forward to deepening our relationship with European viewers through Rakuten TV, who shares our commitment to providing audiences with premium content paired with a user-friendly experience.”

Rakuten TV Launches FC Barcelona Soccer Series

To soccer fans worldwide, Spain’s FC Barcelona (“Barça”) is one of the top professional clubs in the world led by Argentine’s Lionel Messi.

Rakuten TV Nov. 29 launched “Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona,” a free eight-episode reality-based program that follows the club and its players through the 2018-19 season.

Narrated by John Malkovich, the series claims to offer a “no-holds-barred” view of the club and players during a season that saw the club finish atop Spain’s La Liga as well feature prominently in the ongoing UEFA Champions League competition.

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Rakuten is a primary commercial sponsor of FC Barcelona. The series is available for free across the 42 European countries, including Japan.

Rakuten TV is a European-based VOD offering transactional access to new release movies and TV shows. It also includes an AVOD section, Rakuten TV Free, in a blend of thematic channels embracing Hollywood classics, local, exclusive and themed content.

Rakuten, headquartered in Japan, offers ecommerce in the United States. In addition to FC Barcelona, the company has partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

Rakuten TV Launching AVOD Service

Spanish-based digital service Rakuten TV Oct. 15 announced the launch of its first ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) channel.

The free section of Rakuten TV will include Hollywood movies and TV shows, in addition to local and exclusive content with a combined linear and on-demand access.

The AVOD channel will feature soccer documentary Matchday — Inside FC Barcelona, a series about one of Spain’s top clubs from the inside, offering previously unseen and exclusive scenes from the players’ private lives.

Narrated by John Malkovich, Matchday — Inside FC Barcelona is a creation of Barça Studios, FC Barcelona’s own production house, in collaboration with Kosmos Studios, Rakuten, Inc. in association with Rakuten H Collective Studio and Producciones del Barrio.

Rakuten Viber, Rakuten’s instant messaging service, will also be involved in the project, leveraging its community of 2 million Barça fans to promote Matchday.

Citing growth in consumer interest in AVOD, Rakuten TV claims it would be the first online TV platform combining transactional on-demand video content and AVOD across Europe.

“Rakuten TV continues to evolve rapidly alongside consumer trends within the industry, where there is a clear trend of advertisers moving away from linear TV and towards VOD,” founder/CEO Jacinto Roca said in a statement. “This is the mere beginning of a huge project which will see the launch of additional channels and exclusive content in the coming months”.

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The AVOD service will be available in beta version via Rakuten’s smart TV partners and will be rolled out on other platforms, including mobile and desktop.

Advertising sales will be managed by Rakuten Marketing, a subsidiary of Rakuten. Nielsen will be the data partner (DMP-data management platform) used to target digital advertisements.

“Advertisers and agencies are eager to be among the first to showcase their brands in this exclusive and groundbreaking advertising platform,” Nick Stamos, Rakuten marketing CEO, said. “VOD is emerging as a powerful media channel, our clients have been anticipating this launch from Rakuten TV, so we are very excited to bring this new proposition to market across Europe.”

 

Sony, Paramount to Offer Imax Content in the Home

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution, among others, in a deal with Rakuten TV, FandangoNow, and Imax, is set to offer Imax content on select smart televisions in the United States, Europe and China.

Imax and DTS have launched a license program enabling third-party consumer electronics manufacturers to offer digitally remastered 4K HDR content with DTS audio in the home.

“We are thrilled to support our collaborators to bring ‘The Imax Experience’ into the home with this new and exciting format,” Pete Wood, SVP/Digital Sales, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a statement.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is offering movies Venom, Spider-Man Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Spider-Man: Far From Home — the latter including 45 minutes of Imax expanded content.

Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Bumblebee will be the studio’s first addition to the expanding collection of Imax Enhanced titles for streaming platforms, followed by Crawl, Pet Sematary (2019), and Rocketman, all of which will include Imax signature sound.

Imax content on Bravia TVs will be offered through the Rakuten TV streaming service this month in U.K., Spain, Germany, France and Italy.

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Bravia models with Imax Enhanced certification are the Master Series ZG9 8K HDR Full Array LED and AG9 4K HDR OLED sets, as well as the XG95 Series 4K HDR Full Array LED TV.

“Today’s announcement continues our efforts to usher in a new level of quality in home entertainment by pairing digitally re-mastered 4K HDR content with breath-taking images and immersive sound as the filmmakers intended for the home,” said Francisco Navarro-Sertich, SVP/Strategy at Imax Corp.

Separately, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also will release a series of new titles on Imax Enhanced physical 4K Ultra HD disc, beginning with The Angry Birds Movie 2.

This is in addition to Imax Entertainment’s release of Space Station on Imax Enhanced UHD Blu-ray in July, which is available for purchase through Amazon and other major retailers.

 

Rakuten TV Gets Direct-Access on Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense TV Remotes

Rakuten TV March 14 announced partnerships with Samsung Electronics, LG, Philips and Hisense to introduce a remote control button on their smart TV units in Europe and Pan America directly linking to the streaming video service.

The move comes about eight years after Netflix began incorporating its logo/button on TV remote controls in the United States. The SVOD pioneer followed up in Europe in 2015.

Barcelona-based Rakuten TV, which offers digital retail, rental of Hollywood movies, in addition to subscription streaming video throughout Europe, said incorporating its logo/button on TV remotes would increase its presence worldwide, including reaching more than 30 Million households and tripling its distribution from 12 to 40 countries in 2019.

The platform, which is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, was previously known as Wuaki.tv. A year ago, Rakuten acquired British-based TalkTalk TV, which was previously known as Blinkbox.

The service said it would also increase selection of 4K HDR movies in all the 40 European countries involved in the expansion. Last year it became the first in Europe to offer 4K UHD content in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos on LG smart televisions.

“This is a major step that our company is undertaking within a plan of expansion, which aims at making Rakuten TV the first choice of entertainment for Smart TV owners,” founder/CEO Jacinto Roca said in a statement.

“This is proof of our commitment with providing an always better experience to cinema lovers. With this move, Rakuten TV will triple its presence on a continental level, strengthening its commitment to deliver the best cinematic experience at home.”