Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, is ramping up its challenge to Amazon and Netflix with plans to expand its video-on-demand service in Europe, at the same time as teaming up with four major TV manufacturers to embed a special Rakuten button on their remote controls.

Rakuten TV, its VOD subsidiary based in Spain, announced last week that it has inked a deal with Samsung Electronics, LG, Philips and Hisense to introduce a remote control button on their smart TV units that will link directly to its streaming service.

Planned for this summer, the rollout also includes an ambitious target of adding 30 new countries in Europe to its distribution network, bringing the total across the region and Japan to 42.

It is estimated that the dual move will propel it to reach 30 million households in Europe, more than tripling Rakuten TV’s presence on the continent.

“This is a major step that our company is undertaking within a plan of expansion which aims at making Rakuten TV the first choice of entertainment for smart TV owners,” said Jacinto Roca, CEO and founder of Rakuten TV.

“Having a remote control button directly connecting to the platform aims at empowering users to access the best movies in the best quality just with one click, dramatically increasing our number of users,” he added.

Speaking later to TechCrunch, Roca revealed that Rakuten TV also has plans to expand into other markets, most likely Latin America and Asia, once its VOD service has covered most of Europe.

“We are here to continue running the marathon,” he said, referring to the challenge of taking on the likes of Netflix internationally. “This is another step for us to become a global player in this industry.”

Roca also told TechCrunch that Rakuten TV differs from its larger rivals in at least three important respects, the first being that it does not follow a subscription model.

“We think that the simplicity of our offer is one of the key value propositions for us, so we have no plans to introduce monthly bundles,” he said. “The focus today is making sure that we have people enjoying at least one movie per month on our platform.”

Secondly, as a smaller player, Rakuten TV has decided to limit the amount of original content it offers, partly because original content can be very expensive to create.

“We will do three or four more films this year, to start learning about production, but we have no big strategy behind this now,” he said. “It’s more an experiment, but with no strategic initiative.”

The third area where Roca believes Rakuten TV will stand out from its rivals is through localisation and offering a wider and better selection of content for each local market.

Data will help the company to identify what European consumers want to watch on TV and also the most popular cinematic releases.

Sourced from Rakuten TV, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff