This story was published in January 2022, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In Russia, there are currently 11 major streaming platforms. But for the purposes of this report, VideoAge has selected three of those services: KinoPoisk, since it’s one of the top-rated; KION because of its visibility and entertaining presentation at MIPCOM in October by Alina Martyanova, KION’s head of International Distribution and Co-production; and LAVA, because of its news value. All three services also have the distinction of being known internationally due to their strong marketing presences.
As for non-Russian streaming outlets, Netflix is the only foreign service that operates in the country, and it is distributed exclusively by Amediateka, which VideoAge’s Russian sources placed ninth on the list of the 11 Russian streamers our sources put together for VideoAge.
VideoAge first encountered KinoPoisk when working on a Water Cooler digital story that posted on October 21, 2021, and featured Olga Filipuk, CEO of parent company Yandex Studios and chief content officer of KinoPoisk.
LAVA, which launched last fall, came to VideoAge’s attention through the public relations efforts of a representative of Star Media, the Kiev, Ukraine-based (with offices in Moscow) owner of the streaming platform launched in partnership with the Los Angeles-based OTTera. The type of partnership is not clear, and OTTera officials did not answer questions sent via email.
The focus of LAVA’s AVoD, SVoD, and linear channel services, according to Sergey Kupreev, chief business development officer of Star Media, is to serve “the interest in Russian-language content outside the CIS. We stake on the foreign market where the Russian-speaking audience accounts for 35 million people.” Vladyslav Riashyn, president of Star Media, specified that LAVA’s key markets are “North and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Israel and a part of Asia.” In LATAM, LAVA’s main audiences are expected to be in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.
LAVA’s own library consists of 1,000 hours, with plans to reach 3,000 hours — and up to 10,000 hours in all with acquired content. Currently, some of the content is also available dubbed and subtitled in English and Spanish. The plan is to soon add Portuguese, German, French, and Vietnamese languages, as well.
KinoPoisk is Russia’s third largest streaming platform, a division of IT giant Yandex, the country’s biggest search engine and technology company, which, since 1997, has built intelligent products and services powered by machine-learning. Additionally, Yandex has developed on-demand transportation services, navigation products, and other mobile applications for millions of consumers across the globe. Yandex, which has more than 30 offices worldwide, has been listed on the NASDAQ (New York) since 2011 and on the MOEX (Moscow) since 2014.
KinoPoisk was initially launched as an IMDb-style database of information about film and TV but, since 2018, has also run an SVoD service that reaches close to 10 million households.
The whole operation is run from Moscow by the aforementioned Filipuk, who is also in charge of animation and sports content project development on Yandex’s media services.
From 2014 till 2016 she worked for Russia’s largest streaming service company ivi.ru, where she first held the position of Purchasing director. She later became the vice president of Content Policy there.
KION is a video streaming service also owned by a technology company, Mobile TeleSystem, Russia’s leading mobile operator. Launched in April 2021, it is now the 10th largest streaming operator in the country, serving 3.5 million subscribers who each pay a stand-alone monthly fee of 199 rubles (U.S.$2.60), which is similar to the subscription fee of U.S. $2.99 for LAVA.
KION’s offerings cover all options, including EST, TVoD, SVoD, AVoD, and, added Maria Smirnova, KION’s chief content officer, “around 200 linear channels. Some programs are offered in FVoD [free content without advertising], which we use as a marketing tool for the first episodes of original series.”
The service is, at the moment, geo-limited to Russia, even though content rights are mostly acquired for CIS territories. However, Smirnova pointed out that “there are cases when we acquire exclusive rights for international distribution. We [also own and have] worldwide rights for our original titles.”
Smirnova explained that the service currently offers 9,000 titles, most of which were acquired, and 20 original series developed in the less than eight months since launching the service. In 2022, production of original series will be increased to 30. “We have an internal development department, though we hire external top production companies to produce for us,” she added.
Current plans call for acquiring all rights of up to 3,500 titles per year, mostly for a two-to-five-year period. And specified Smirnova, “in Russia, subscribers prefer watching the content dubbed in Russian. That’s why we offer dubbed versions.”
On a final note, Smirnova touched on the subject of piracy. “In Russia, historically, there was no habit to pay for content, as TV channels offer a great variety of movies and TV series for free. Additionally, pirates have always been very active in bringing top international content to Russian audiences. All that made Russian viewers think that paying for content is unnecessary, which definitely is not helping SVoD businesses to grow. Although we are very active in fighting piracy and protecting our content, and one day we are gonna win!”
On the other hand, also commenting on the subject of piracy, Ekaterina Smirnova, vice president of Digital Business Development for Star Media, stated: “Our expertise in the production, distribution, and protection of content was instrumental in creating a unique anti-piracy service, ContentScan, which was launched in 2020. The service is based on machine-learning technology, with all processes, from locating pirated content to its complete removal, being fully automated. This allows us to protect a large number of titles, and makes protection efficient and affordable. The service is designed to protect different types of content, including text, live-TV streaming, and sports events.
“To date, efficiency of the protection offered by ContentScan is over 98 percent.
“ContentScan has already received two industrial awards: a special award from the Russian Association of Film and Television Producers and Bolshaya Tsifra’s national award in the field of Digital TV.”
Audio Version (a DV Works service)