'Hulu of Russia' prepares to fend off potential Hulu, Netflix invasion

A company known as the "Hulu of Russia," because of its business model of providing a variety of international and local content, has raised $40 million to make things a little tougher if the original Hulu--or its compatriot Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX)--come into Russia and try to take over its market.

Private equity firm Baring Vostok, along with existing investors ru-Net, Tiger Global, Prof-Media and Frontier Ventures, poured the money into ivi.ru in an attempt to build the company's technology and content catalog in the event of an invasion by the American online players into Russian lands and over Russian wires.

ivi.ru founder-CEO Oleg Tumanov told TechCrunch that he's already raised "several dozen millions" of dollars and that this investment will be as much about building up the ivi.ru offering to compete with existing players like YouTube and Rutube as it is about battling any newcomers.

Rutube has pushed into the premium content space with a redesign that included a new logo, while YouTube is "currently the country's most popular online video site, with 24.9 million monthly uniques [unique views]," the story said.

For its part, ivi.ru has seen its monthly views increase to the point where it says it gets more than 10 million monthly uniques looking at more than 50 million videos. All this is happening in a market that Tumanov says is "in an early stage of development" because broadband infrastructure and subscriber numbers are just starting to grow. While ivi.ru has a hefty product catalog of 65,000 titles, that will be a drop in the bucket if Netflix, Hulu or other payers invade the space, so getting more content and getting that content to subscribers is the top priority for how to spend the new money.

"We would like to bring more content to our users, and we would definitely like to develop a better user experience and eventually be on every device," Tumanov said in the TechCrunch story.

And, while Tumanov would like to be on every device, he thinks it's still a good idea that those devices be located in his mother country.

"Russia is still the primary market for us," he said. "There is still a lot of growth here, and we would like to keep our leading market position in Russia and to engage and bring more users."

On the other hand, Tumanov added, he would "not exclude adjacent markets in the former Soviet Union," though there is "[n]othing to announce now."

For more:
- read this story in TechCrunch

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