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'Wacky' Spanish VoD squad launches people-picked online vid service in UK

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Bizarrely named video-on-demand service Wuaki.tv – the first part’s pronounced “wacky” – has introduced a new subscription scheme: a selection of movies and TV shows which changes every seven days and is picked by people rather than computers.

Readers over a certain age will be familiar with this kind of notion already. It’s what we used to call “broadcast television” – a selection of “high quality movies and TV shows refreshed on a weekly basis”, as Wuaki puts it.

Wuaki’s Selection plan, as the service is called, will set you back a Lovefilm-matching fiver a month. Cheaper than the television tax – er, the TV Licence fee. Of course, like the BBC, Wuaki’s Selection can still only offer the material it is able to license, so the choice presented to users will, of necessity, be limited.

Personality tests

The company thinks the service will appeal to punters who find it hard to choose something to watch, and it hopes that by using people to pick the selection of material that will be made available, Selection will have more of a “personality” than other services’ long lists of films and TV boxsets do. It also sells and rents individual downloads.

If it can correctly organise movies by genre, something its rivals seem largely unable to do, it will have another edge. But no matter how cleverly the content is selected, or how well it is presented, if a viewer can’t watch the film or show he or she wants to watch, all that “personality” doesn’t matter two hoots.

Wuaki sees itself as an iconoclast among UK VoD services and is pitching itself as a “rules changer”. It has brought former athlete Roger Fosbury, he of “Fosbury Flop” fame, out of retirement to promote the service in a run of TV ads. In 1968, Fosbury changed the way the athletes perform the high jump; Wuaki wants punters to think it will do the same for video-on-demand in 2013.

Wuaki.tv Selection

Content carefully chosen by Wuaki’s workers, apparently

For all that, it’s essentially no different from Netflix, Apple’s iTunes, Amazon’s Lovefilm or Tesco’s Blinkbox: it offers a mix of TV and film content all of it made available in the same timeframe as the DVD/Blu-ray release. Like the others, it makes all this material available on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, computers and a games console, the Xbox.

Wuaki’s "rules-changer" pitch is based on delivering the components its rivals don’t: the new releases Wuaki founder and CEO Jacinto Roca claimed last night that Netflix lacks, or the subscription service that Blinkbox doesn’t offer its customers, he said.

But these are not features unique to Wuaki, and it lacks key elements its rivals provide; most notably the exclusive, never-before-seen shows presented by both Netflix and Lovefilm. It also lacks the extensive user base of iTunes or Google Play.

Based in Barcelona, Wuaki launched in Spain in 2011 and arrived in the UK this year, albeit in a “beta” form which the company yesterday celebrated moving on from and into full launch mode. It has 800,000 account-holders in Spain. Wuaki was last year bought by Japanese internet company Rakuten, which also owns Canadian e-bookseller Kobo and UK e-tailer Play.com in addition to running its own, domestic online retail and financial servcies operations.

Rakuten has a stake in Pinterest, Roca said, and an ambition to be a global internet giant. So expect to see greater integration of all these acquired companies’ services in the years to come as it grows by pitching Service A to users of Service B, and vice versa. For instance, anyone with an account with Play or Kobo will be able to use their login details to sign into the VoD service, said Roca.

Wuaki’s own goal is to open up across Europe by 2015. ®

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