South Korea, Japan and Taiwan=等地區?
Breaking Down Communication BarriersWhen YouTube kicked off as a video-sharing site in 2005, it spawned a new era of video watching that tore down many of the geographic and commercial barriers that had existed in traditional media markets. But despite the platform's ground-breaking nature, language still remains the biggest obstacle preventing non-English-language content from reaching untapped audiences.
Along with the thousands of hours of viral amateur footage that made celebrities out of anyone with a $100 digital camera, the platform also gave Web users a glimpse into the world of content from obscure television markets that had previously remained siloed by their small broadcast reach.
From Uzbek music videos to Korean drama serials to television commercials not seen since they last aired in the 1970s, the depth of the Internet's storage capacity means there is no content too fringe and no fanbase too small to find a place in the online video marketplace.
For all the ways the Internet has been able to increase productivity across national borders, however, content is still highly fragmented along linguistic lines. Throughout moving picture's modern history, content traffic between different language markets has been anything but multidirectional: While English-language content predominantly from the major U.S. production houses has a truly global reach through both subtitled and dubbed forms, so-called 'foreign' content subtitled or dubbed in English is still widely seen as niche-market stuff, despite the increasingly multilingual nature of a market such as the U.S.
And while YouTube caters to a large range of language markets, the appetite for local-language content has given rise to language- and country-specific video-hosting sites such as Youku in China, Rutube in Russia and the Iranian-focused Vidoosh.
Much less common, however, are direct translations between smaller and geographically distant language markets─Croatian to Malay, for example. Underlying this is not just a lack of distribution infrastructure linking such markets (translation being a key piece) but also a dominant assumption that there is unlikely to be an appetite for such exchanges.
Viki, a Singapore-based Internet start-up and one of 12 finalists in The Wall Street Journal's Asian Innovation Awards, is challenging that assumption. It has developed a video-hosting service that is supported by a community of subtitlers that translate television and movie clips into some 160 languages.
Razmig Hovaghimian, the 37-year-old founder of Viki, describes the site as 'Hulu for the rest of us,' given its focus on bringing non-English-language television productions out of their traditional markets.
'Right now, there's a wedge between fans and the content,' Mr. Hovaghimian says. 'I want to remove that wedge because the content is trapped there.'
The site has more than 1,000 titles─movies, television programs and music videos─and the most popular content originates from markets like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
For example, 'Playful Kiss,' a Korean television series, has translated subtitles in 56 languages, including Tagalog, Estonian and Greek.
And while the most widely spoken languages unsurprisingly account for most of Viki's translated subtitle words─about 250 million words at present─Romanian and Turkish have made an unexpected entrance into the top 10 'translated-into' languages, showing the surprising reach of the platform.
Viki originally was funded by Neoteny Labs, a Singapore-focused start-up fund headed by venture capitalists Joichi Ito, an early investor in Twitter, and Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn.
The website last year received a second round of funding from its original investor base and new investors BBC Worldwide─the British broadcaster's commercial arm─and SK Telecom Co.'s mobile spinoff SK Planet. It drew about 14 million unique views in August but having just launched a 'behind-the-firewall' service on Chinese social networking site RenRen, this number is expected to increase.
Mr. Ito believes Viki can both lower the costs of marketing and distribution of content and help content owners target frontier markets with much more granular information about audiences than is currently available.
'I think that high-quality content creates platforms for communities that become local advocates for new cultural interactions,' he says.
While Japanese and more recently Korean artists have established impressive followings outside their own language markets, Mr. Ito sees potential for other emerging cultures to also build bridges to new audiences as production values improve. 'In particular, I'm interested in Arab, Latin American and Indian content right now,' he says.
雖 然網絡有種種方法可以跨越國界提高生產力﹐但節目內容仍然因為語言的緣故而高度分散。從電影發展的現代歷史看﹐不同語種市場之間的內容從來就不是多向流動 的。雖然來自美國主要影視製作機構的英語節目內容通過添加字幕和配音的方式能夠做到在全球播出﹐但那些添加英文字幕或英文配音的外國節目內容仍然被普遍視 作利基市場──雖然美國等市場多語種程度越來越高。
Viki 最初的投資方是Neoteny Labs。Neoteny Labs是一家專門在新加坡投資的初創基金﹐由風險投資人伊籐穰一(Joichi Ito)和霍夫曼(Reid Hoffman)負責管理。伊籐穰一是推特(Twitter)的早期投資人﹐而霍夫曼是LinkedIn的聯合創始人兼執行董事長。
去年 ﹐Viki獲得了第二輪融資﹐投資方除了第一輪的投資者還有一些新的投資者﹐包括英國廣播公司(BBC)的商業分支機構BBC Worldwide和SK電訊(SK Telecom Co. Ltd.)的移動業務子公司SK Planet。 該網站8月份的獨立訪問者數量達到了1,400萬﹐鑒於Viki剛剛在中國社交網站人人網發佈了專屬專區﹐預計這個數字還會增長。