The CEO of Raktuen TV talks to Jonathan Easton about how he is bringing his experience in ecommerce to the streaming video platform, and how the company’s strategy allows it to be adaptable.
Cedric Dufour is a well-known face in the European ecommerce industry.
He joined Rakuten in 2016 as its French chief operating officer, before being appointed as its open e-commerce managing director for Europe. Prior to that he spent more than 20 years in a number of senior roles in the sector, including FNAC ESPAÑA.
Speaking to Digital TV Europe, the exec says that one of the key objectives in his role as CEO of Rakuten TV is to lean on his financial background and give “more importance in the sustainability of our growth.”
Having started life as Wuaki.tv, the streamer once described the ‘Spanish Netflix’ set out lofty plans for expansion in 2013 a year after it was acquired by is compatriot Rakuten.
In that period, the platform has significantly evolved from its original model of subscription and transaction-based services, to focus on the latter along with the increasingly popular free advertising-supported TV (FAST) channel distribution.
Now in 2022, Rakuten TV is available to more than 110 millions households across 43 countries via a pre-installed app on select Samsung, LG and Vestel Smart TV devices. On that app, users can purchase and rent movies and series, while also accessing over 100 free channels across categories such as sports, news, children, cooking and more. Most recently, UK news outlet The Guardian launched its first standalone TV channel on Rakuten TV, while it had a major addition of more than 20 channels in late 2021.
Dufour also highlights a partnership “with almost all the manufacturers” to have a dedicated Rakuten button directly on the remote control.
Suffice to say then that Rakuten TV is in a healthy state. Dufour jokes that he “arrived at the right moment” with the company having had a “double-digit growth since the beginning of the year.”
Dufour surmises: “So I would say that my main objective as CEO is not to revolutionise anything because there is no need for a revolution.”
“It’s a mix between continuity of what has been done and also an evolution following the market and trying to keep our approach to the market as it has been the case in the past.”
Part of that evolution has been an ability to act quickly. Dufour reveals that Rakuten TV’s AVOD service, which launched across Europe in October 2019, was developed “very quickly”.
He says: “In six months we built the platform to propose these advertising-based video-on-demand and multiple channels, and now part of our revenue comes from advertisers.”
This is where Dufour can lean on his ecommerce expertise, he explains. “With the advertisers there’s more of a connection with ecommerce, because obviously these advertisers when they communicate on our platform they want to have a good ROI.”
One aspect that Dufour highlights as particularly attractive to advertisers is the introduction of shoppable ads. This can present a QR code on screen which users can then scan on their smartphones to go directly to the advertiser’s website.
Ultimately, Dufour believes that Rakuten has “found a good solution” for users to watch free content “with ads, but limited ads compared to traditional TV.” This, he explains, presents a more approachable platform that can suit the needs of consumers whether they want to watch the latest blockbusters via TVOD or something for free.
It is of little surprise that Rakuten TV is investing so heavily in its AVOD business given the potential rewards. A recent report from research firm Omdia claims that the AVOD market will hit revenues of almost US$260 billion by 2025, with online video advertising set to overtake traditional linear TV globally in 2022.
“The evolution of this market is due to an evolution of the requirements we have from our customers,” Dufour says. “And the advertisers are happy because there is much more segmentation than on the traditional TV and they can target obviously much better. The customer is happy because the ads they can see are targeted and they are supposed to be of their interest. The same for the advertisers, as they can spend less money trying to target their real target.
“I think it’s a win-win, it’s a benefit for both parties.”
With Rakuten in the midst of celebrating its 25th anniversary operating across segments including retail, FinTech and even food delivery, the company is a well-oiled machine of independent and intersecting parts.
Dufour explains that Rakuten TV does largely operates “with our own road map and objectives”, but adds that “we are integrated into the wider ecosystem.” He gives the example of a consumer purchasing a product on Rakuten.fr, and then they can use the loyalty points from that purchase to redeem against a free movie on Rakuten TV.
Concluding, Dufour says that he wants his legacy as CEO to be as one who has kept the company’s “agility and capacity to adapt to the evolution of the market.”
Rakuten TV is, compared to many of its competitors, a relatively small operation with around 200 employees. Dufour says that this is a strength and has enabled it to move quickly.
This, complemented by the resources of the much larger overall Rakuten operation, has Rakuten TV on a path for success with, evidently, “no need for a revolution.”