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Rakuten TV Preps New AVOD Channels and Originals for 2020 (EXCLUSIVE)

Rakuten TV has garnered 10 million views on its free on-demand service since its launch in October. The streamer’s CEO, Jacinto Roca, told Variety that, buoyed by the early AVOD success, it will launch a suite of new channels and original shows on the ad-supported service in 2020. He added that he hopes the free service will notch a billion views next year as Rakuten TV ramps up.

“We launched less than two months ago and have had a million users and over 10 million views,” Roca said of the AVOD platform, which is available in over 40 territories in Europe. “The first months have been better than expected.”

Making the “Matchday – Inside FC Barcelona” original documentary series, about the legendary titular Spanish soccer club, available for free has been a key traffic driver for Rakuten TV, the streaming arm of Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten.

The plan now is to expand the existing roster of three channels. “People come for ‘Matchday’ but stay and watch movies and other content,” Roca said. “In the first quarter of 2020 we are targeting adding 10 more channels. We’ll add channels including kids and family, news and documentary, TV series, cooking, travel and others. And every quarter we will add new original content on a [dedicated] originals channel.

Rakuten TV is handling ad sales for the AVOD platform in-house. Brands including booking.com, Danone and Nissan are among the early advertisers.

Ad-supported VOD is growing fast, and Rakuten TV and peers such as Tubi and Pluto TV are expanding their offerings at a fast clip. With consumers facing so many choices, the AVOD experience is often pitched as a simple, user-friendly experience.

But having started out as a transactional service (TVOD), there was the possibility of cannibalizing that existing business with AVOD. Roca says that has not happened, with 50% growth in the TVOD segment year-on-year. “We can push AVOD and not damage TVOD,” he said. “It’s a very fast-growing new business line that is moving advertising dollars from conventional TV to this new type of video-on-demand viewing.”

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