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U.S. studios go online with Spain’s Wuaki

Warner, Disney, Sony, Par ink with new over-the-top service

Pinning their hopes on home entertainment revenues from online distribution in Spain, Warner Bros., Walt Disney, Sony and Paramount have licensed part of their content to Spain’s new over-the-top service Wuaki.tv.

Wuaki launches in November and will sell or rent north of 1,000 films and TV skeins for streaming.

Moving out of its beta period, Wuaki claims near 60,000 registered users.

“Our business model with the studios is pure revenue share,” said Wuaki co-founder and CEO Jacinto Roca.

Company has also clinched deals with indie distribs Aurum, Vertice and Filmax, plus toon house BRB Intl., and is in talks with Fox and NBC, according to content director Josep Monleon.

One pillar of Wuaki’s market strategy is its agreements with smart TV manufacturers Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Philips to integrate Wuaki access onto their screens.

“Users will be seduced by the convenience of controlling everything from the remote,” Roca said.

One of Wuaki’s main challenges is to convert the millions of Spaniards who make illegal Internet downloads into legal buyers in a country included on the priority piracy watch list of the Congressional Intl. Anti-Piracy Caucus.

Wuaki has a large space in which to grow. According to IHS Screen Digest, over-the-top online movie transaction revenues for 2011 will reach only $6.6 million in Spain, far below the U.K.’s $80.1 million, France’s $63.5 million or Germany’s $46.6 million.

However, key international players are moving into Spain’s online market. iTunes offers U.S. studio films and Netflix launches next year.

“Although the online market is still small in comparison to TV, it is growing,” said Patrick Stuart, senior manager of Disney Media Distribution for Spain and Portugal. “Wuaki is a great opportunity to give consumers in Spain wider access to our programming, and the ability to enjoy it in even more flexible ways.”

Juan Angulo, general director at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Spain, said, “A priority for Warner is to develop all the legal markets for its product, specifically for digital distribution.”

Backed by risk capital funds Axon Capital and Bonsai Venture Capital, Wuaki partners have invested $6.7 million in the venture. They plan to expand to Brazil this year.

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