Sale of Viki to Rakuten

CEO’s announcement of sale of Viki to Japanese company Rakuten lacked a lot of details, but fortunately lots of details can be found by googling:

  1. sale price US$200,000,000
  2. Rakuten is e-commerce company with lots of products to sell and lots of advertising needs
  3. Viki seems to have received recent venture capital infusion

Clearly, Viki’s basic value is primarily derived from value added content from free subbing and segging services provided by the Viki world-wide community. And just as clearly, Viki’s ownership/management is being driven by profit motive. When will Viki ownership/management have an honest and detailed discussion with the Viki community on this instead of spewing PC rhetoric like the recent sale announcement? Who should profit from the free services provided by the Viki community? How will the sale price be distributed? Will Viki be going towards the paid subscription route like Dramafever? The Viki community should be entitled to at least this much courtesy.


Geez this explains a lot of the recent changes. It is sad that the corporate world might squeeze the individualism that made so unique right out of existence.

I like dramafever, but I also really enjoy the fan channels on viki. I also really enjoy all the comments that people make. This was a slick format that benefited a lot of folks. It also afforded regular folks to work without copyright infringement. I think a lot of the regulars will start moving back to Youtube if the commercials and freedoms enjoyed by volunteers slowly disappear.

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I endorse…

Kind of sad that not a lot of people know about this…=[. I just hope Viki won’t die because of this buyout.

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I was so upset when i found out that viki had been sold to another company. I pray they don’t change how the current viki is because it would be so sad . This is a good post by the way because a lot of viki users have no idea that the sale of viki has taken place. Someone told me yesterday and that was how I got to know

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(There went something wrong with my previous post and I couldn’t edit it so hopefully it works now)

I know about Rakuten because they took over an online shop I sometimes ordered my anime and they have a few more online shops. But it seems they also do other things like:

  • Online retail: Operation in a number of countries outside Japan.
  • Banking, Credit and Payments: Offering personal consumer credit services including card loans, mortgages, and other banking services.
  • Portal and Media: Managing portal sites acting as gateways to the internet, and performing other activities.
  • Travel: Operating hotel booking and other travel-related websites and providing other services.
  • Securities: Providing services such as online securities brokerage.
  • Professional Sports: Managing a professional baseball team, planning and selling related merchandise and performing other activities.
  • Entertainment: Online video club.

Source: Wikipedia

The only thing I hope for now is that they indeed keep thinking about the community and not to much things do change for the worst because that always leads to volunteers leaving, in the past Viki has lost some very good volunteers. Improvement and better service is always welcome.

Hi, everyone. This is Tammy, GM for Viki North America. :slight_smile: Hopefully this news will mean only good things for volunteers: We’ll be able to license more content; we can now hire more engineers to build community features faster than we’ve been able to before; we can also launch more volunteer-only perks like giving QCs ad-free access to the site, etc. It’s very expensive to run a video content business and we’ve never had the financial backing to truly go big on all fronts, including all the community-specific projects we’ve wanted to start. We know that the company’s success is and has always been tied to the volunteer community’s success. That’s why the team - including and especially Mariko, Stephanie, Brittany, Anaheli, Carly, etc. - really wants to make absolutely sure that we do the right things on behalf of the community. Please continue to email, PM, etc. and let us know what we need to do better! In the meantime, we hope to announce some cool community features very soon!


Can you improve the license negotiation team? DF announces which are the upcoming dramas weeks or months ahead. Viki channel managers don’t know till 1 week if we’re lucky to hours or even after the episode airs. It’s a lot of hard work creating, designing a page and recruiting a team only to have it all fall down. Then we can’t get firm commitments from some Korean subbers till we are sure.

If viki has like > thousands of % increase in funding- when will the volunteers especially the channel managers and segmenters- get more information earlier about the upcoming dramas?

Plus spend some money acquiring the TW dramas which were subbed on viki but didn’t get the license and we lost all the work.

So yeah you can talk about community perks. But there are others in the community who actually don’t want our work lost/ wasted. Better channel of communication- more timely communication- would be better. In any business, you can’t tell an operating team to design a product and not know if there is a market. The people doing the marketing are not going to work so hard to sell a " product" that might not see the light of day. Or able to get " team members" to commit time when it’s not confirmed till the day before. There are more dramas needing Korean English subbers than there are subbers to do them.

And oh yes… the swear filter. I have been waiting for this for more than > 1 yr. That’s a community feature. We are the moderators who have to deal with viewers complaining about the profanities and also vitriol during the dramas or when they deem subbing is not done instantly after upload- don’t know what message those watching viki videos via Android/iphones are getting- regarding how subtitles are done. Or how much time it takes to produce a subtitled episode. So yes, swear filter please. Not just music badge or anime badges. And making sure the actual software dealing with video uploading, timing and subtitle actually works each and every time. These are not community features. These are the things that makes viki what viki is. Crowdsource subbing- must have software that does not fail the site every week.

So I would say infrastructure, licensing techniques improvement and software maintenance please from this revenue.


Sorry ck, but I need to correct a misunderstnding. The $200M is NOT going to Viki. To the best of my knowledge, all of that money is being paid to the owners of Viki (i.e., the VC vultures and the founders and other insiders). All the talk about more money for content really depends on whether the buyer Rakuten will contribute more money into Viki or not. Hope you understand now why I was asking questions about this sell-out of the Viki volunteers.

Dear Tammy,

I was very shocked to read this ending to your email to me: “However, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t attempt to come to our office in San Francisco; the tone of your comments have made some employees uncomfortable.

I asked several ViiKii veterans to read my posts/comments. They all agreed that the questions I raised were tough but fair, and that there was absolutely nothing scary or threatening in my posts/comments.

I was planning on sending you a long and thoughtful response, but they counseled me “what’s the use?”. We ViiKii veterans will just endure the exploitation, see what happens under Rakuten ownership, and if necessary, we go on strike or jump ship.

Don’t worry. I have absolutely no interest in visiting your San Francisco office or interacting with your employees. As an attorney for over 30 years in San Francisco, I know how to ask tough questions and to follow the money, but I have no answers to greed or bad behavior. I already get enough of that with several self-important and entitled neighbors of mine in Noe Valley.

I only ask that you stop misleading the ViiKii community into thinking that the $200,000,000 sale price is going into Viki. To the best of my knowledge, all of that money is going to the ownership (VC vultures and founders/insiders) and none of it is going to either the volunteers or Viki’s operating budget. Whether Viki’s operating budget incrreases in the future will strictly depend on Rakuten’s business plans for Viki.

Best wishes and I hope that former ownership can sleep well.


The only thing I want to say at this time is that if Viki expects volunteers to pay for Ad-Free videos, that’s when I am going to stop subbing.


Hi, CK. You make excellent points. I completely agree about the priorities you listed: infrastructure, licensing, software maintenance. Let me try to address. 1) We’re hiring more people on our content ingestion team, which will help us keep up with the volume of content that’s being added to the site, as well as minimize any technical mistakes that may occur in the process. 2) Regarding the Taiwanese titles you’re referring to: It’s terrible that we lost so many subtitles on those shows (as a contributor myself, I would be mad, too). As you may remember, we migrated to a faster, better platform earlier this year when we re-launched the site; while this fixed many previous issues, it also created a few unexpected ones with some very old channels, and unfortunately, these titles happened to among them. We’re still trying to fix this, though, and will keep you updated on progress. 3) Regarding more reliable technology in general: even the largest tech companies face this, but it’s a perennial challenge to keep up with increasing volume and product complexities. We’re quickly hiring engineers in both our San Francisco and Asia offices to meet demand, hopefully ensuring minimal downtime and bugs. And finally, we’re auditing internal processes to help ensure more efficiencies across the board, from identifying the best content to license, uploading the content, communicating to channel managers, etc. To this last point, unlike other websites, it’s important for us to play by the rules (and minimize frustration of channel teams) and only let people know after we secure a license, not as we’re negotiating. However, your point is well taken. We’ll look into ways we can communicate this information earlier, maybe only with QCs. If you have suggestions, please PM me directly. Again, thank you for your feedback.

Hi James!
It has been a long time, since I was active the last at Viki about 7 months, and it already feels so different. The way comments go about the dramas, in earlier days, there was interaction between the commenters and there was often not always more depht to the conversations. Anyway that is only a sentimental memory, that vanished like old viikii.
I was really fed up when Viki erased comments and posts at Viki, for me it took away the bond I had with this page and it made me quit as a volonteer, or let’s say it was the last drop.
I once came here for the fun of interacting and learning some more English while subbing into German. In the beginning there was a line, where you could actually fill in, if you did not translate literally, what the real meaning of a sentence was and why you chose different words to transport the content of a dialogue. Through this function I learned a lot about, the impact that needs translation and the meaning of metaphers that wouldn’t always work while literal translation. And some translators would leave cultural information, which was really interesting. Of course this function was doomed to be cut. Later you still could watch two languages in a video, that was a good training for learning as well, but with the latest changes that was something that went missing too.
More and more then bringing language barriers down, it’s like Viki is feeding them, when I try to look some subs in my native language I sometimes get the shivers, and will just quit after a few lines only. It’s a shame. But I do not dare to criticize volunteers. “The fish always starts smelling from its head.” A famous quote.
Even by writing this comment and looking at the money that is rolling from here to there, it feels like a “bubble” not that much different, than the facebook stock market launch.
As much as facebook doesn’t really care, if you are not that keen of spreading your private data online. ( They work with your data, that means they make money with your information, they might not put it to public in detail, but asume that you must be happy, to you can have influence on the market, when in fact it’s more the other way around. - But that’s another story)
So similar to facebook Viki cares for your input, if it’s contributing in channels, or giving feedback to the functions, the layout, whatever because it is a cheap way to make their product=Viki more valuable=profitable=worthy. It does not care that much for your worries in other things that aren’t that much related to the “product”, since in the end those worries will not raise the price of Viki.
I will stop at this before someone calls me “aggressive” or anything else. Or that my chosen words don’t fit regarding this “reminder”.
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I am still considering over coming back as a contributor, but it will not be anytime soon I guess.
P.S.: A week ago several dramas were licensed for Europe (where I live, in case you wondered …), I could not feel that happy about it since there was an article, I think about 2 years ago that announced this to happen. Two Years ago!!! And amongst those dramas there were some that went missing for a few weeks/months and now got presented as newly licensed. I know that licenses can be temporary but still it felt weird.
That’s all I will write for today.
Wish everyone a good time and that Viki will be what the expect or wish for.^^


Hi everyone, Tammy,James,CK,Ajumma,Lutra,Dudie,Chizzy,

@James, thanks for letting us know what’s going behind Viki’s scenes!


so the $200,000,000 sale price was only for the previous Viki’owners who keep it for themselves and disappear?

Now the Viki community has to face the new owner,Rakuten.

After bying Viki with such a big amount, does Rakuten company have enough money left for Viky itself, enough money to hire more people to improve the site’infrastructure, money to increase the volume content with Taiwanese, Japanese titles,money to assure the software maintenance…?

About License:

For CK’Padam Padam channel, the team was even working on it for 4 episodes, segmenting, translating at all and pam!! what’s we got as Christmas gift? the non-attribution of that long awaited license!

Back to back, the same worst case scenario for Horse Doctor! After more than 5 months where CK as the manager and me as moderator and page designer, we came day after day to bring shape to this channel, then at its D-day,the whole Horse Healer team was ready when the bad news was told at the very last minute of that same first airing day!
All the preparing time gone to waste!

Passing 5 months preparing a channel is nearly a half of the year on it!!
As now we got the Kim Soo Hyun’drama but it’ll start to air only on December, you see, 5 months too!

Tammy! since “Heirs/Inheritors” got its license months before its airing date, since Kim Soo Hyun is also an A-list’actor as Lee Min Ho, please please Tammy could you make sure that “Man From The Stars” will follow the same way please?

About Swear filter:

Until now, we, English moderators, do this ingrate job for Viki!

I came from even 22 screencaptures of swearing words a week on Wild Romance channel, this was to give as proofs to the Help Center before deleting the profanities, after that i was so fed up that i only did copy-past them to the manager, and now i merely hit the delete button!!

Tammy, if you have a child who even volunteers on Viki, would you let him/her continuously scan swearing words at least 2episodes/2days per week,drama after drama? i dont think so, im right??

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Hi mimmy,
If the comments are not good enough for you, I’d say DELETE it!! :slight_smile:

Does this mean that we might finally get a ROKU app for Viki? I would even be willing to pay a reasonable subscription fee for such a channel, especially if it offered an ad-free option.

How much money Rakuten will actually put into Viki is still an open question, but the market cap of the company is around 1.7 Trillion yen, so it appears that they have sufficient money if they choose to do so.

From the press releases that I’ve seen, Rakuten will be using Viki (1) as an advertising platform either for its own e-commerce businesses or for general ad sales to other advertisers, and (2) as a captive consumer group to purchase merchandise/services from Rakuten’s e-commerce group. I don’t think Rakuten is particularly interested in operational profits from video content itself, i.e., ad-free subscription service, as that would undercut its primary business plan. It will be very interesting to see what enticements Rakuten will be giving to try and retain the free labor that the Viki volunteers provide that adds value to the video contents which attracts the world-wide viewing audience that Rakuten really wants. If Rakuten ultimately has to pay for that labor, the costs will skyrocket and quality will decline and the investment will likely crater and be abandoned and written off.

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Since Rakuten is a listed publicly traded company in Japan, it will be interesting to see what information they provide in their upcoming regulatory filings about their Viki purchase and business plans. There could be a wealth of information that current Viki insiders have been very reluctant to share with the Viki community. Notice the misleading spin that the $200M purchase price will give Viki money to pay for more licenses and employees, when in fact the purchase price is going into the pockets of the VC vultures and founders/insiders. Maybe someone in the Viki community in Japan might be interested in following up on Rakuten’s upcoming regulatory filings which should be open to the public if Japan’s SEC is like the US.

It’s already known that viki’s working on a free pass for the volunteers. It will be for the Qualified Contributors.

Since everything is done, viki’s selling to this new company, now, all we have to do is to wait and see. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Rakuten bought viki, I hope like all of you that I am right to think that way. But if the viki’s staff seems to be in a really good mood about it, I will find difficult to believe that’s it’s so bad for us.

Let’s think positive, it will be better for the community. Nothing good will happen with sad mood.

Cheer up, us contributors are also a part of viki, it’s also our responsability to make it nice to live in :slight_smile: Even if we can’t do anything about the money matter.

Hugs sweeties :slight_smile: