International Exec You Should Know: Mubi’s Efe Cakarel

Mubi is on the move.

Earlier this month, Efe Cakarel’s streaming platform inked a deal with producer Dong Ping’s Huanxi Media to launch a Chinese version of the platform, which focuses on arthouse films. Huanxi will invest $40 million in Mubi China for a 70% stake in the joint venture, and a further $10 million in Mubi itself for an 8% stake in the company, valuing it at $125 million.

The deal follows a hectic 2015 in which Mubi had raised $15 million in additional funding, and changed its direction to put a greater emphasis on English-language films. The company also struck a series of deals, including its first Hollywood pacts, with Sony, Paramount and Miramax; signed its first all-rights agreement, for Miguel Gomes’ “Arabian Nights”; and staged the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Junun.”

Turkey-born, London-based digital entrepreneur Cakarel founded the site, originally know as the Auteurs, in 2007; he renamed it in 2010. Mubi specializes in independent, cult, classic and festival films, and, until last year, focused on foreign-language titles, with a subscription fee of $4.99 a month. The company has powerful friends, such as Working Title Films co-chair Eric Fellner, who is an investor and sits on its advisory board.

Cakarel, an alumnus of MIT and Stanford, and a former Goldman Sachs staffer, has lofty ambitions for the site. “We want everyone from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, when they want to watch a movie, to think: ‘What’s on Mubi tonight?’ ”

Unlike other streaming services, Mubi is focused purely on cinema, and is curated by its staff — there are only 30 films to choose from at any one time in a rotating lineup. Cakarel maintains that consumers feel overwhelmed by the huge number of titles on rival sites, like Netflix, and that the recommendation engines on those platforms don’t work effectively. “There is so much stuff out there; we feel there is a paradox of choice,” he says. “Algorithms cannot figure out what you want to watch. We travel all over the world to watch films so you don’t have to, and then bring you the best of cinema.”

One of the barriers to growth is the difficulty in securing film rights. “I’m not able to show all the films I want to,” Cakarel says, citing “The Lobster” as an example. “The reason I can’t is because of the whole ecosystem, and the way the distribution set-up works, and how conservative it is.”

The exec sees a sea change coming. “What you are going to see increasingly is that the audience decides. The audience is moving very significantly toward consuming media through one of their devices at home, and as this becomes bigger, you are going to see (platforms like us) invest quite significant capital to get all rights to films, so we don’t have to work with a window that someone else creates. We can decide when to show the film — and how.”

More Digital

  • Asian Streamer Iflix Completes $50 Million

    Asian Streamer Iflix Completes $50 Million Fund Raising

    Asia-based streaming firm Iflix has completed its latest funding round by bringing in major institutional investor Fidelity. The company says it is now looking towards an IPO. Iflix, which has operations across 12 countries in Asia, says that the funding cycle brought in “well in excess of $50 million,” but provided few new details. Other [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Columbia Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Ads placed for the drama had an estimated media value of $5.71 million through Sunday for 997 national ad [...]

  • Department of Justice

    DOJ Announces Antitrust Review of Tech Giants

    In a move that could potentially disrupt Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, the U.S. Justice Department announced that its antitrust division opened a review into “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power.” The DOJ, in its announcement Tuesday, didn’t identify which companies it is looking into as part of the investigation. Facebook, Amazon, Google [...]

  • Snap Inc

    Snap Stock Skyrockets as Company Adds 13 Million Daily Active Users in Q2

    Share prices for Snapchat’s corporate parent Snap Inc. shot up as much as 13% in after-hours trading Tuesday on news that Snapchat added 13 million daily active users in Q2 of 2019. The service ended the quarter with 203 million users, compared to 190 million at the end of Q1, and 188 million in Q2 [...]

  • jbl link bar

    JBL Finally Releases Its Android TV-powered Smart Sound Bar

    Over a year after first announcing it, Samsung subsidiary Harman is finally releasing its JBL Link Bar, a smart sound bar that comes with Android TV built-in. The new device effectively doubles as a smart speaker, and does away with the need for any additional streaming devices. Google and Harman / JBL first announced the [...]

  • Inverse-BDG

    Bustle Digital Buys Digital-Media Startup Inverse, Its Eighth Acquisition to Date

    Bustle Digital Group, continuing its strategy of snapping up smaller digital-media players, has acquired Inverse, geared toward an young-male audience with content about science, tech and culture. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. BDG founder and CEO Bryan Goldberg is well-acquainted with Inverse, which was founded in 2015 by CEO Dave Nemetz — who previously [...]

  • Pandora voice mode

    Pandora Launches Voice Mode for Everyone

    After first launching a limited beta earlier this year, Pandora opened up its mobile voice control to all of its iOS and Android users Tuesday. The new feature allows users to ask for songs, albums, playlists, stations, and even soundtracks for activities or times of day, with simple voice commands. Pandora’s voice mode is similar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content