Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
International-focused TV and video site Viki has made a significant move into the music space, after it announced deals with a number of record labels and agencies, most notably Warner Music, SEED Music Group of Taiwan and Korea’s LOEN.
The expansion has brought thousands of music videos from hundreds of artists to the video site, Viki says, building on its existing selection of TV shows and videos that cater for worldwide audiences.
The new selection features an eclectic bunch of artists, ranging from international pop and rock stars to K-Pop figures and rappers, including Green Day, Simple Plan Drunken Tiger and Brown Eyed Girls.
Given the international scope, the company will turn to its active community of fans to ‘crowdsource’ translations of the lyrics — as it does with its videos — to break the language barrier for other users, which currently number 20 million monthly visitors.
The first music content will be available in the US, Canada, Europe and several significant countries across Asia, where its Singapore-based CEO Razmig Hovaghimian is domiciled.
A phased rollout will see the music selection brought to other countries and regions worldwide.
Currently, North America is responsible for 40 percent of the service’s traffic, while Europe accounts for around 15 percent and Southeast Asia — a particular hotspot for Korea content, as is France, curiously — makes up 30 percent of its active users.
The rest of its userbase is spread across other markets, such as The Middle East and Latin America.The move is a natural one Hovaghimian told The Next Web, particularly for its video content from Korea, where a number of popstars are successful actors and feature in many of Viki’s back catalogue of video content already.
For the music labels, partnering with Viki provides an opportunity to extend their reach and monetisation into these global markets, with the subtitling a particularly effective method to increase the connection with fans in emerging markets where English isn’t widely spoken.
Stephen Bryan of Warner Music Group paid tribute to the Viki platform and the opportunity it will present the label and its artists:
Viki will help both global superstars and local talent to forge deeper connections with audiences that don’t speak their language. At the same time, it offers fans a new way to champion their favourite acts and contribute to their success.
Earlier this week, we looked at how the K-Pop industry is using the Internet, and in particular social media, to grow its worldwide audience, and the addition of Viki will help LOEN expand its online footprint.
Won-Su Shin, CEO of the Korean label, spoke of the new of reach that Viki will provide:
Through the alliance with Viki, we’ve established a foothold for spreading K-Pop throughout the world. We anticipate that many users can now share their favourite music more conveniently and that global competitiveness of Korean music will be strengthened.
The news is particularly significant for Asia and other emerging markets where Spotify, Pandora, Deezer and others are yet to open their services.
The initial pool of artists does not address this void instantly but, with Warner Music in particular on board, the move is a significant step and it again shows that Viki is focused on exploring untapped international markets.
Viki’s most recent round of funding — its second to date — saw it raise $20 million last year. Its backers include Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures and Neoteny Labs, which provided a collective $4.3 million in series A funding in 2010.
The company has strong links with the Korea. Its two other co-founders — CTO Changseong Ho and CPO Jiwon Moon — are Korean and it has an office in capital city Seoul, in addition to its locations in San Francisco and Singapore.
Viki has passed 1 billion videos views and its strong international focus has seen its users translate its global collection of content into close to 200 million words of subtitles, across 150 different languages.
The company will continue its international push, Hovaghimian says, as it looks to add more global material, with India TV shows and drama likely to be among the new music and video content coming soon.
The CEO reveals that the company uses a dual approach of brokering big names deals and sourcing content locally on the ground. He is particularly proud of the community of dedicated fans and translators that the company has built, and the appeal that this international reach gives to content producers.
“We’re not built like YouTube with thousands of engineers,” he explains, “but we do use social and our community to reach out across the world.”
For an example of Viki’s multilingual approach, here’s ‘Welcome to My Life’ by Simple Plan — part of the new music catalogue — which is available with subtitles in nine different languages; each of which has been translated by Viki’s community.
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