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Hello Kitty: Japan's Line inks Sanrio deal to conquer US

Japan-based messaging and VoIP calling service Line hopes the cute Sanrio character will entice US users to check out its mobile messaging app.


A hit with mobile messengers in Asian countries, Line plans to introduce itself to the US market with the help of Sanrio and its beloved female Japanese bobtail cat Hello Kitty.

The Japan-based messaging and VoIP calling service, which launched in June 2011, has more than 280 million registered users. Line is credited with popularizing the now ubiquitous practice of sending digital stickers in messages to friends.

Line is sticking with its successful sticker formula -- it made around $27 million from stickers in the second quarter of 2013 -- to conquer new territory and will start hawking a Hello Kitty sticker set, exclusive to US users, on Friday. The cartoon cat, who celebrates her thirty-ninth birthday on November 1, will also have her own official Line account that members can friend to receive news and content.

The partnership marks the start of Line's push to grow its audience in the US, where competing mobile apps such as WhatsApp and Kik are already big hits with teenagers.

Line has 334 official brand and celebrity accounts and makes money from its VIPs who pay to reach users of the service with a real-time chat feature called "on air mode." Paul McCartney, The Walking Dead, and Real Madrid also operate official Line accounts.