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Rakuten TV Launching Pan-European AVOD Service

The buzz at Mipcom this year is about advertising-supported as much as subscription VOD, and Rakuten TV made a major move into that space Tuesday with the announcement of a new AVOD service in the 40-plus countries it serves in Europe.

Rakuten TV has been focused on transaction-based video-on-demand, offering customers big-ticket studio movies. It also has an SVOD service in Spain, where it is headquartered. It will now supplement those with an AVOD offer that will go out of the gate with content including “Matchday – Inside FC Barcelona,” Rakuten TV’s John Malkovich-narrated documentary on the Barcelona soccer club, which is one of its burgeoning slate of originals.

Rakuten TV founder and CEO Jacinto Roca made the announcement during a conference session at Mipcom. Speaking to Variety ahead of time, he said the AVOD service will be a revenue-generator in its own right, and will also drive people to the existing pay-per-view content. He added that plans are already in place to ramp up the content offering on the AVOD service, with additional series, docs, sports and news channels coming.

The free service will have local and U.S. fare, segmented into channels. Rakuten has deals with smart TV manufacturers that add its app to their connected services. Advertising sales will be managed in-house by Rakuten Marketing, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc.

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There has also been a platform revamp, with a new look and feel for Rakuten TV, which takes viewers to the channels offering and the free content as well as the TVOD lineup.

It has been a busy period for Rakuten. In March, it tripled its footprint at a swoop by launching in 30 new territories. It also greenlit its first original, “Hurricane,” last year.

“We are incredibly proud to take this step after having tripled our presence in Europe just a few months ago,” Roca said. “Rakuten TV continues to evolve rapidly alongside consumer trends within the industry, where there is a clear trend of advertisers moving away from linear TV and towards VOD.”

He added that “this is the mere beginning of a huge project which will see the launch of additional channels and exclusive content in the coming months.”

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