Is the Bear Market in Language Service Providers Justified?

Language Service Provider Stocks

Memories of pandemic film and TV binging are still fresh, with some lamenting they had just about seen “everything” on Netflix or Prime. Other streaming platforms rose to the challenge of keeping the home-confined masses entertained and, as a result, the subtitling/dubbing business experienced a surge.

Enter 2023. Some media localizers are beginning to feel a slowdown as AI makes it easier, faster, and cheaper to accomplish multilingual subtitling/dubbing, and the Hollywood actors and writers strike materially impacts film and series production. Part of their protest is related to the very things AI now enables producers to do, such as taking their voice and likeness to create new content.

But it is not all grim news for media localizers. Just like during the pandemic, more people are beginning to watch more non-English content, at least on Netflix, according to Next TV

We asked readers if they were watching more non-US content on streaming services than two years ago, and half of respondents said they are (50%). A little over a third (34.1%) are watching about the same amount of non-US content, and the rest of respondents (15.9%) said they are not. 

Revisiting Professional Credentials for Linguists

It has taken decades for the careers of translators and interpreters to be recognized as professional occupations, as opposed to trades, with all that recognition might entail: better quality standards, higher pay, and improved working conditions. Getting recognition for both professions has been the never-ending work of associations across several countries and regions.

Ideally, to be called a professional translator or interpreter and be compensated accordingly, one should be required to have at least accreditation (i.e., validation of educational credentials and experience, plus a commitment to adhere to certain standards).

A few countries offer certification (i.e., a step further via examinations administered by government agencies or professional boards). This is the case in the US, for example, for translation as well as legal and medical interpreting. Professional credentialing for translators and legal interpreters has been available in the US since the 1970s, with some programs and specializations evolving from accreditation to certification at the beginning of the 21st century.

A step further would be licensure (i.e., legal permission granted by a regulatory body to practice a profession, such as what doctors and lawyers must possess to practice), but language professions are changing as a result of technology, so a good question would be who exactly would need to be licensed. Borrowing on the experience of doctors and lawyers, perhaps this could be the case for legal and medical translators and interpreters …  

Better late than never, progress was recently made in the UK as public service interpreters can now obtain accredited status. On July 18, 2023, the UK National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), announced that the profession of public service interpreters is now recognized and regulated by the government’s Department for Business & Trade. 

We asked readers if they thought language professionals should get official government accreditation. Half of respondents (50%) think this depends on the work they do. About a third (30%) believe this should be the case, and the rest of respondents (20%) answered “No.” 

LSP Bear Market

Is it a sign of things to come or just the pains of a technological transition? Or is it a ripple effect of macroeconomic forces at play? It is too early to tell either way, but there are a few observable trends as the language services industry approaches the end of Q3 2023.

Shares in the few large, publicly-traded language services providers (LSPs), including RWS, Zoo Digital, Keywords Studios, Ai-Media, and Straker have all dropped over 20% since the beginning of the year. So are we in a “be greedy when others are fearful” moment?

When asked if this was a good time to buy shares in publicly listed LSPs, the majority of readers responded it was not (62.9%). A little less than a quarter of respondents said they would invest a small allocation (22.9%), and the rest are bullish on the sector and would invest in listed LSPs (14.2%).

Is There an Overall Business Slowdown?

As central banks coordinate efforts to bring inflation under control by hiking interest rates, the world economy is slowing down. The language industry typically correlates tightly with global GDP growth, and so we asked readers if they were experiencing a summer business (or volume) slowdown, and it appears that this is the case for just over half (53.4%). For the rest (46.6%), it is just business as usual.