Viki doubles down on content arbitrage with Asian TV and movie deals

Viki is adding more than 2,000 hours of content from Japan, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Venezuela to its global TV platform, thanks to new distribution agreements with broadcasters like TV Asahi, Huace and Venevision.

Viki CEO and co-founder Razmig Hovaghimian told me during a call Tuesday that this is part of the company’s larger strategy of content arbitrage — it cheaply licenses out-of-market content, gets help from its community when it comes to translating these shows and then monetizes that content through advertising.

Hovaghimian in particular highlighted the deal with Japan’s TV Asahi, which is going to include titles like CSI: Crime Scene Talks 2 and the Tradegy of W. It’s the first time TV Asahi has made any of its content available outside of Japan, and he told me that it took two years to make this happen.

Viki is one of a number of companies licensing this kind of content to bring it to foreign markets, with others including Dramafever, Crunchyroll and Viewster. One of the differences is that Viki is purely ad-based.

Viki is also using a very analytic approach towards content licensing, testing out formats with its community and licensing only content that’s popular with its viewers. Hovaghimian said that Viki often stumbles across unexpected niche markets this way. For example, it realized last year that Korean content is big in Latin America, with some shows getting up to 1.3 million viewers on Viki. At that point, it’s not really long tail content anymore, argued Hovaghimian: “We view it as the torso.”