Joanne Waage

BACKGROUND: After working in production, affiliate sales and marketing at cable networks such as Lifetime and MTV Networks, Joanne Waage joined digital startup MobiTV, one of the first players in mobile video. In five years there, her team pursued programming that would appeal to passionate fans. One service she identified was Rakuten Viki, which distributes Asian dramas with massive global followings, particularly among younger viewers. “I was intrigued by the community aspect and the social aspect of Viki,” Waage recalls. “It was well beyond a lean-back experience.” Waage first joined Rakuten Viki (a play on two media buzz words, “wiki” and “video”) as senior VP of partnerships and, in June 2017, was elevated to CEO. Rakuten Viki is owned by Japanese Internet giant The Rakuten Group, which also operates Viber, eBates and Lyft.

2017 HIGHLIGHTS: Seeking new original content, Rakuten Viki inked a deal with Skybound Entertainment, creator of AMC’s hit The Walking Dead, to produce a Korean drama, Five Year. Billed as a pre-apocalyptic drama and produced in Korea with local talent, the show will be translated into multiple languages with subtitles. Most Rakuten Viki shows originate from Asian countries, but Waage says its fans represent a wide range of cultures and ethnicities and most stream from Europe, North America and Latin America. “Less than 50% of our fans have any Asian heritage. This is a group of passionate Generation Zs and millennials.” As for advertising, Waage says more brands and buyers are taking note of Rakuten Viki’s highly engaged, young and multicultural fans.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Adding to this year’s debut of Five Year, Rakuten Viki will seek more original series and more global content partners. Waage also wants to explore new opportunities such as events and ecommerce. To that end, Rakuten Viki is testing out a beauty site stocked with Korean products and is partnering with Korean brands on the endeavor.