Around Town: Adios, Tower of Babel

At last! There's a cure for my addiction to the K-drama series “My Love, Madame Butterfly”

Until last week, I was forced to wait until Channel 18 doled out the subtitled episodes a full month after the show aired in Seoul. Since most episodes end with cliff-hangers, patience is a difficult virtue.

But now, the long wait is over, thanks to a Singapore-based company.

The company is called Viki and its model is brilliant. Viki obtains licensing rights to TV shows, movies and music videos from all over the world, including “My Love, Madame Butterfly” from South Korea, “The Rose of Versailles” from Japan (“Romance! Battles! Palace intrigue!”) and “La Libération de Paris” from France. There are thousands and thousands of episodes and movies.

Viki places the material online as originally aired, in the native language. The shows, videos and movies are available at no charge as streaming video. This means that they are available on demand.

For example, episodes of “My Love, Madame Butterfly” are uploaded with the Korean soundtrack. The shows from Japan are uploaded in Japanese, and so forth.

Viki then “crowd sources” the subtitles. There's an easy-to-use interface that allows volunteer translators to write the write the subtitles, scene by scene.

Within a few days of being uploaded, an episode of “My Love, Madame Butterfly” will be fully subtitled into English. After that, the episode is translated into any number of additional languages.

Do you want to watch “My Love, Madame Butterfly” in Russian? Go to

Want to watch Japanese Anime in Croatian? Go to

There's even an iPhone app.

The upshot is that we don't have to wait for Channel 18. You can watch 46 episodes right now from your iPhone, iPad, iPad Touch or laptop.

That's why Viki has more than 160 million registered users. It has 1 billion “streams” and has translated shows into 150 languages. The company started two years ago, quickly raised $25 million, mostly from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Viki now 40 employees, with offices in Singapore, San Francisco and Seoul.

The website is somewhat monetized. There are commercials placed within the episode. The ads for “My Lady, Madame Butterfly” are for Kellogg's Pop Tarts (“crazy good”) and the Cadillac ATS (“car of the year”).

Thanks to Viki, the Tower of Babel is falling down. May it never rise again.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at anitasusan.brenner@
and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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