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Viki

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viki.com

It seems as if every single day, a new premium streaming service is released. Nowadays, every single TV network and movie studio wants a piece of the pie. Sooner or later, I can’t help but wonder if the allure of premium streaming services might be fading. It is starting to feel less like a good deal, like it did back when you only had to worry about paying for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. These days, with everyone starting their own premium streaming sites, it just seems like cable, but more expensive.

This is why any and every free streaming site that I come across these days is a blessing. Fortunately, for every new premium movie streaming site, there is at least one free movie streaming site in development. Whether these free movie streaming sites are ad-supported or offer freemium tiered memberships, I warmly welcome free movie streaming sites into the fold like Viki.

There is no other streaming site that I have seen that is anything like Viki. From their business model to their content focus, this is a free movie streaming site that goes against the grain. It follows that old Silicon Valley philosophy of “disruption” to a tee while also serving a growing niche demand for Asian content around the world.

Viki, though, does not specialize in the type of Asian content that might first come to mind, anime (there are plenty of other streaming sites that do just that). Instead, Viki provides primarily South Korean and Chinese dramas. Offering both free TV series and free movies, Viki stands in a great position to become the best Asian streaming service on the market, even though the company is technically headquartered in the United States (San Mateo, California, to be exact).

Viki’s full name, though, is Rakuten Viki, nodding to the free streaming service’s parent company, the Japanese tech giant, Rakuten. So, to call this strictly, an American company would not be entirely accurate. Viki is one of those companies that is made up of a diverse range of cultures, all of which are represented in the service and its audience. In addition to its US headquarters, Viki also has offices in Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, and Japan.

What, then, makes Viki such a unique free movie and TV streaming site? Well, the answer lies in its name, actually. Viki is a play on the word “Wiki,” which alludes to the use of volunteers when it comes to content management. This is a truly fascinating and viewer-based means of running a streaming site, one that could pave the way for a more interactive and hands-on streaming experience down the road.

At the core of Viki, the way in which the company acquires and distributes content is not necessarily novel. Their premium syndication can be compared to that of Hulu’s. The difference, however, lies in what happens to that content once it is licensed. First, a show or movie is added to one of the site’s channels. From there, the content is able to be subtitled by community volunteers. Viki is the first freemium streaming site that provides real-time subtitling, as well as community content editing. There are 200 subtitle languages available on Viki, and approximately 50 of them are endangered or vulnerable languages.

History

Viki was founded in 2007 by entrepreneurs Razmig Havaghiman, Changseong Ho, and Jiwon Moon. The initial round of funding for the company came from a Singapore startup, Neoteny Labs. This money was also funded by Joichi Ito and the co-founder of Linked In, Reid Hoffman.

One year later, the company made a prudent and clever decision to relocate the business to Singapore in order to take advantage of generous government subsidies and its location as a rich and bustling Pan-Asian hub. After these first 3 years of development and fundraising, Viki officially exited their beta trial period in 2010, releasing the free movie and TV series streaming service to the general public.

3 years after that, in September of 2013, the company announced that it was to be acquired by its new parent company, Rakuten. The acquisition was reportedly priced at $200 million.

Design

Viki offers a fairly common and straightforward approach to the design of their streaming site. One thing that I really love about Viki is how easy and instant it is to begin streaming free TV shows and movies. There is nothing to it! All you have to do is browse the library, choose a show and episode or movie, and click play. Voila, no signup required. The HD stream begins with little to no delay whatsoever. It’s not every day that you find a free streaming site that is this intuitive and simplified.

Furthermore, the viewing interface, too, is effective. Everything is streamlined and smooth. Conveniently browse other episodes and seasons of a given series while still watching a given episode. Alter and customize your viewing experience with in-depth, subtitling tools and options. And cast via Chrome Cast with just the click of a button.

As far as the library browsing layout is concerned, Viki’s design is fairly standard. Browse by genre, topic, or channel with a side-scrolling layout. If you have ever used Netflix or Hulu, the layout and browsing features of Viki will be immediately recognizable and intuitive.

Content and Features

There are many unique and interesting features on Viki. In addition to the uncommon approach to community and volunteer subtitling, as I mentioned before, Viki also has built-in timed comments that users can toggle on or off. This presents an unprecedented level of the community for a streaming site of this magnitude, being able to watch and comment along with others. This is an ingenious additional feature that helps to further set Viki apart from other movie and TV series streaming sites.

As far as content is concerned, Viki offers users some of the most sought-after Korean and Chinese dramas. Fans can enjoy popular classics like The Wolf, The General’s Lady, True Beauty, and My ID is Gangnam Beauty. Plus, Viki also offers some great original content, and certain shows and movies only available to premium Viki Pass users (more on that in a moment).

Viki is, without a doubt, the best Asian drama streaming site. And it is one of the best free TV and movie streaming sites on the web. Their innovative approach is sure to reverberate throughout the rest of the industry.

Mobile and Desktop Experience

The Viki mobile app is every bit as incredible as the desktop site. Available across a wide range of mobile devices and smart TVs, Viki’s apps offer a smooth, intuitive, and user-friendly viewing experience no matter where you happen to be – whether in your living room or on the train.

Available on iOS and Android devices, Roku, Android TV, Apple TV, Chrome Cast, and Fire TV, fans of Viki will have no trouble keeping up with their favorite shows and movies. Mobile streaming apps tend to be quite hit or miss, but I should note that Viki’s app has an average user rating of 4.8 (of 5) stars on the Apple App Store, which should give you a good idea of the quality of Viki’s app design.

Pricing and Plans

One of the greatest components of Viki is the fact that it is free to use at the basic level. However, in order to access all of Viki’s content, including exclusive shows and movies, you will have to sign up for either Viki Pass or Viki Pass Plus. Here are how the 2 options break down:

Viki Pass: $4.99/month

-Unlock all Standard content

-Access to Viki exclusive interviews, originals, movies, and global dramas

-HD streaming, no ads

Viki Pass Plus: $9.99/month

-Unlock all Plus shows and movies

-Unlock all Standard shows and movies

-Everything from Viki Pass Standard comes included

-100s of additional hours of Korean television included (from top broadcasters)

-Kocowa included

No matter what plan you choose, both come with a 7-day free trial. And students are offered a 20% discount for the standard version of Viki Pass.

Conclusion

If you love Korean and Chinese movies and TV shows, Viki is a free streaming site that you should 100% know about. If you are a serious Asian entertainment buff, I highly recommend subscribing as a premium user. This is a high-quality streaming service with unprecedented approaches to community features and content editing.

Likes & Hates:
High-quality free streaming site
Premium plans available
Great design and interface on site and all apps
Wide range of apps available
Amazing community features
Viki Pass Plus doesn’t seem to include enough to make it worth it
No HD streaming without premium