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Rakuten TV launches ad-supported service in Europe

Rakuten Inc.'s video-on-demand service, Rakuten TV, is launching a free, ad-supported channel in Europe as it looks to expand in the region.

Alongside an existing mix of rental and download titles, users can access the free section within the company's newly redesigned streaming app home to Hollywood movies and exclusive shows.

The service is available in beta across compatible smart TVs and will be rolled out to mobile and desktop.

A specialist marketing unit is handling advertising sales with Nielsen Holdings PLC, acting as the data partner for targeted ads.

Rakuten TV founder and CEO Jacinto Roca said the launch marks the first step in an expansion project that will include more channels and exclusive content.

"There is a clear trend of advertisers moving away from linear TV and towards VOD," he said.

The service more than tripled its distribution in Europe in March, from 12 to 42 countries, through a partnership with smart TV makers. These include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc. that put a dedicated Rakuten TV button on their remotes – in the vein of Netflix Inc.

Rakuten said it now reaches 30 million households across the region.