View the article on MIT Sloan Management Review

The South Korean television drama “My Love From the Star” features a dashing, 400-year-old alien who falls in love with an actress. The plot isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s essentially a boy-meets-girl story with an interstellar twist. The global appetite for such Korean entertainment — movies, TV shows, and music videos — has exploded in recent years. For non-Korean-speaking viewers, subtitles are crucial to the experience. Enter Viki Inc., a company that hosts content for streaming and provides subtitles and closed captions. Viki both eliminates language barriers and introduces the content to an otherwise unserved audience.

Traditionally, subtitles are created by a bilingual translator hired by the producer or broadcaster. But the process is expensive and slow to scale. To overcome these challenges, Viki developed a business model leveraging a community of more than 150,000 volunteers. This model allows Viki to crowdsource subtitles for Asian content in numerous languages. Viki rewards volunteers with gamified badges, the ability to view videos not otherwise available in their region, early access to new shows, and an advertising-free, high-definition experience of the content.

As it happens, the market is ripe for services like Viki’s. In fact, the combination of rapidly increasing internet video adoption rates and a greater appetite for foreign content — both in Asia and globally — has become a big opportunity for Viki, which was acquired by Tokyo-based Rakuten Inc. for a reported price of $200 million in 2013.

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