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Wuaki TV Takes on Netflix in Europe

by Michael Goodman | Feb 13, 2015

Not content to allow Netflix’s European expansion to go unchallenged Wuaki TV announced that it plans to expand to 15 countries in Europe in 2015. Wuaki TV, which was acquired by Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2012, has 1.85 million users, up 85% YoY, and is currently available in Spain (1.25 million subscribers), the U.K. (400k subscribers) and Italy, France, and Germany, where it launched in late 2014, and which account for the remaining 200k subscribers. Wuaki TV will launch in Austria and Ireland in the first half of 2015 and later expand to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal followed by launches in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

At its core, Wuaki TV is a premium video-on-demand service focused on rental and sell-thru (movies and TV shows), however, unlike Blinkbox which Tesco recently sold off to TalkTalk (see Digital Media Strategies Insight TalkTalk Acquires Video Rental Service Blinkbox from Tesco) or Target Ticket which is being shuttered as of March 7th, Wuaki TV also offers a monthly subscription service, Wuaki Selection. Wuaki Selection offers older movies and TV shows making less attractive than similar subscription VOD (SVOD) offerings from Netflix and Amazon.

According to Wuaki TV CEO Jacinto Roca about 15% of Wuaki TV users subscribe to the monthly service. Wuaki TV does not offer original content. The advantage of premium VOD is that is that new releases are available earlier as rentals or sell-thru, often taking weeks or months before making their way to subscription services (see Exhibit 1). Despite this consumers are flocking to SVOD service such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon due to the convenience and value these services provide. According to Roca “It is in Rakuten’s DNA as an e-commerce company to offer a transactional model. It feels better with our core business, especially since DVDs and other packaged media have been a big part of our business”.

Continuing along this vein, Wuaki TV also supports UltaViolet, providing consumers who purchase a movie on DVD or Blu-ray with a digital copy, similar to Carrefour’s new online video service, Nolim Films (see Digital Media Strategies Insight Carrefour Launches Online Video Service).

While Wuaki TV may believe strongly in the transactional model what truly sets it apart is it support for sell-thru, subscription and rental simultaneously. If Wuaki TV can build out its subscription library and develop cross marketing opportunities between its sell-thru, subscription and rental businesses it will be in a strong position to offer something no one else currently does, a complete video offer.

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