Big news for one Singapore startup today: Viki is very well-known among Singapore’s startup community and is very familiar to K-drama and J-drama tragics. But it’s probably not particularly well-known in the general Anglosphere.

The nuts-and-bolts are as such: Japanese online retail site Rakuten reportedly buys Viki for US$200 million.

Viki’s concept is simple in theory but tricky in execution: a community of translators provide subtitles for “foreign-language” television content. That foreign-language could be in pretty well any language – so could the translated subtitles. So, you could have a Korean soap with Croatian subtitles. I wrote about these guys on a couple of occasions, one of those times when they were nominated for the Wall Street Journal’s Asian Innovation Awards.

Razmig Hovaghimian is Viki’s highly-focused and super-positive CEO. He understands the market economics of global television, having worked with NBC Universal. He understands the economics of language translation, speaking about five or so of them himself. He understands cross-cultural flows (he is a U.S.-educated Armenian-Egyptian married to a Japanese woman, living in Singapore with a couple of kids.) Most importantly, he understands the principle of “content arbitrage”: unlocking the latent value of one market’s content for consumption in much bigger markets elsewhere. While Viki doesn’t create any new television, by slapping subtitles onto the content it is able to acquire, it can access large new markets. Why would someone in the Philippines want to watch a Venezuelan novella? You’d have to ask the thousands of Filipinos doing just this. From a data point of view, the inflows and outflows of content between different language markets make for very  thought-provoking reading. It could also seriously disrupt the primacy of English-language content in the global entertainment market.

I’ll be honest,  I haven’t exactly spent lots of time immersed in Korean, Taiwanese or Egyptian soaps on Viki. I think this is a brilliant concept but it takes a lot of sweat to get it right and keep the volumes fresh.

The concept of “content arbitrage” goes back to what I wrote in my last post about why entrepreneurs and tycoons see value in local (as opposed to global or national) news outlets: they’re producing something nobody else on the planet is and this product might just be of deep value to someone, somewhere else in the world if only the technology exists to transport it.

Rakuten could have a bit of fun with Viki, though I’d be lying if I said I had any real ideas as to how. As is usually the case with these sorts of acquisitions, trying to imagine the synergies and how possible new products from both sides of the marriage could look is like trying to guess what your children will look like before they’re born. Probably what gets scribbled on the whiteboard now will look nothing like the reality. I’d say the same for Jeff Bezos’s acquisition of The Washington Post. Importantly, Rakuten now has a video piece in Viki and an e-books piece in the Kobo e-reader technology it acquired in 2012. The broad point remains the same: outfits with fresh content are now finding suitors from a much wider range of industries, not just traditional media players.