Rakuten Viki launches private Watch Parties to bring fans together (even while they’re apart)

U.S. fans of Asian entertainment can now enjoy their favorite movies and shows together — even if they’re hundreds of miles apart — thanks to Rakuten Viki’s new virtual Watch Parties feature.

With over 1,400 TV shows and movies from Korea, Japan, mainland China, Taiwan and Thailand, Rakuten Viki is known as the online destination for Asian dramas and movies. The platform’s innovative community subtitling feature has made a vast library of foreign language content available to audiences around the world, helping drive the Asian entertainment wave of recent years.

In the first half of 2020, Viki enjoyed growth of over 50% in its subscription business, surpassing 15 million monthly active users among more than 32 million registered. User-curated collections, reviews, fan forums, timed comments and crowdsourced subtitles all contribute to the site’s strong sense of community — something users say keeps them coming back.

Closing the social distance gap

As people around the world are socially distancing themselves and avoiding unnecessary travel, this feeling of community is something many users are craving more than ever before. To help bring users together during these challenging times, Viki began hosting public Watch Parties earlier this year in May to allow fans to watch and chat together in real time — an initiative that has proven extremely popular.

Watching together, apart: Rakuten Viki’s "Watch Party" feature allows viewers to chat in real-time while their favorite shows play.
Watching together, apart: Rakuten Viki’s “Watch Party” feature allows viewers to chat in real-time while their favorite shows play.

Viki CEO Sam Wu says that the initiative was part of a longer-term plan. “It was planned before the pandemic,” he reveals. “Viki has a thriving community of users who love interacting with each other and sharing the joy of this content on our service. Watch Parties are our way to help users interact with each other in real-time and watch great content together. It turned out to be a great product feature to bring our community together during this difficult period.”

Host your very own private Watch Party

Last month, Viki took this new feature a step further, enabling private Watch Parties for their users in the United States. Fans can now pick their own favorite shows and watch simultaneously with family and friends — even if they find themselves on opposite sides of the country.

Users need only to log in to their Viki account, select a movie or drama episode and share the unique link. The video of choice plays synced for all users in the party: The host can even control video playback on every device. A console running alongside the video player allows fans to chat with one another, as well as adjust their individual subtitle preferences.

Ready the popcorn and set up a Watch Party with family and friends!
Ready the popcorn and set up a Watch Party with family and friends!

With the arrival of private Watch Parties, Viki is one of the first major streaming sites to natively support such a feature, seamlessly integrating simultaneous playback with the platform’s wide selection of crowdsourced subtitles. The team says that Watch Parties are a continuation of Viki’s strong focus on fostering a sense of community.

“Our viewers come to Rakuten Viki not only because of the wide variety of TV shows, movies and other kinds of enjoyable content, but because they also feel like they are part of a community,” says Cathy Chang, vice president of Product at Viki. “They like to discover programs together, give each other recommendations, and help make the programs accessible to even more people by helping to create subtitles in many different languages.”

“The new Watch Party feature is an extension of this community Rakuten Viki users have already been building themselves, ” shares Chang. “It’s another way for us to bring our community together to engage conversations with each other, especially in the midst of the pandemic, and we are so glad that we can offer this to them.”

Coming to a screen near you?

Currently, the feature is available for a selection of movies and shows, but Viki plans to expand the catalog in the near future and roll out Watch Parties for users around the world. And while the initial rollout is focused on the platform’s free content, the team is planning to implement private Watch Parties for premium content in the near future.

Viki continues to hold public Watch Parties, with a Thanksgiving Movie Night scheduled for November 25 featuring Okay Madam, a Korean family comedy film directed by Lee Chul Ha. A full lineup of upcoming scheduled Watch Parties can be found on Viki.com.    

If you’re a fan of Asian entertainment and you’re looking to let your loved ones in on the fun, this new feature might just be for you. Let the binge-watching commence!

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