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By John McCarthy | Media editor

November 1, 2017 | 3 min read

Rakuten TV is a newly rebranded video on demand company that has the full backing of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten behind it. The streaming service is looking to tap into the cinema experience with its high definition benchmark and fresh-out-of-cinema movies as it pushes into the UK.

Jacinto Roca, chief executive of the Barcelona-headquartered company told The Drum about how it will carve a niche in the market as the platform that gets movie releases first, while also shortening the theatrical release window.

Roca described the service as the iTunes of smartTVs (something Apple may have something to say about with the 2018 launch of its TV offering). The company is making an offensive on the theatrical exclusivity window, something Netflix also championed before going all in on original content. The move comes amid a general debate around the state of movie distribution, as companies sweep in to alter the status quo.

Rakuten TV also looks to hijack cinema experience with its 4K and Ultra HD efforts. Roca said: “We want to deliver the best cinema experience at home, we have all the latest releases from Hollywood studios. We have the biggest portfolio 4K and HDR releases in our service.

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The company recently rebranded as Rakuten TV from wuakiTV to bring it into line with owner, Rakuten who has helped fuel a “rapid expansion” from Spain into 12 European countries. This comes half a decade after Rakuten acquired the company. Earlier this year Rakuten said it was hoping to “maximise the recognition of Rakuten around the world and creating an ecosystem of services”. The description is not entirely dissimilar to what is on offer from rival Amazon.

In addition to partnerships with the largest movie studios, Rakuten TV is targeting local and smaller scale productions to be the de facto place where consumers can rent out a movie. “We also tapping into local studios, our objective is to be global but local.”

Roca said: “We see great opportunity in reducing the window between theatrical and digital releases. Customers do not understand why they have to wait three to four months to get a movie, so we believe there is great opportunity in closing the gap. Hollywood presidents have announced that they will start launching movies with a much shorter window. We also want to support and empower small and medium producers to be able to launch movies.”

It is looking to raise awareness in the UK on the back of partnerships like that of the BFI London Film festival and Romance of India events. Meanwhile the wider Rakuten brand enjoys significant exposure as the shirt sponsor of Barcelona FC, the Catalan club that neighbours the company’s HQ.

Accompanying the push into the UK is a winter advertising campaign unveiling the new brand to a new market. From Ogilvy, ‘the best of cinema, the best of home’ campaign has been planned by Mindshare with the intent of targeting cinema lovers and video on demand users.

Roca said: “Our investment in advertising is just the beginning of increased awareness of the Rakuten TV platform. This is something we hope to sustain for years to come.”

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