Streaming Boom Changes Buyer Perception of Subtitling, Dubbing

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Media companies are more aware than ever before of the importance of high quality localization and its impact on international success. This according to David Lee, CEO of Iyuno-SDI, who delivered the keynote speech at SlatorCon Remote May 2021.

The demand for dubbed and subtitled content has grown exponentially around the world as content consumption has soared. With OTT (over-the-top) providers enjoying better-than-expected uptake in certain regions, content producers are expanding to new international audiences at a rapid clip.

Lee explained: “OTTs cover the globe. This means they can acquire much more viewership outside of the US and fund projects on a larger scale or across different niche genres. It’s now become a core interest of content producers to be aware of international success and viewership.”

Media content producers and localizers are together facing the challenges of meeting unprecedented demand. Lee shared a couple of industry data points with the SlatorCon audience to illustrate the transformation.

  • 2020 was a peak year for OTT with 200 million new subscriber accounts created
  • By year-end 2020, the total number of global VOD (video-on-demand) subscribers stood at 518 million

This massive subscription base is funding high levels of new content production. The result of all this is that “media companies require a lot — and I mean, a lot — of localization work,” Lee emphasized.

In response to these changes in client needs, Iyuno repositioned itself within the industry’s competitive landscape. It acquired its largest rival, SDI Media, in January 2021, to become the largest media localization provider globally by revenue.

The rationale behind the SDI acquisition, Lee said, was “to offer clients the scale, technological efficiency, coverage they needed; and, more importantly, the capability to invest.”

AI Supports Human Creativity

Lee outlined a number of vital strategies — covering technology, operations, business models, and creativity — that localizers need to adopt to thrive in the transformed media localization space.

“We saw that as the technical aspects of subtitling were covered by AI, translators are actually more focused on creative quality” — David Lee, CEO, Iyuno-SDI

From a supply-chain perspective, Lee argued for a simpler, speedier approach to eliminate inefficiencies and meet clients’ demanding time-to-market requirements. “The ability to acquire content, process, localize, package, and deliver — which we call E2E (end-to-end) —  is a super important offering for content companies nowadays,” he said.

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Lee also highlighted the importance of leveraging technology to increase scale and speed. By way of example, the CEO described how Iyuno-SDI has built a custom machine translation (MT) engine using pure media localization assets, with resulting accuracy improvements of up to 50% compared to other, non-media-specific engines.

He also touched on the raft of frontier technology — such as remote dubbing, machine-assisted subtitling, and emotional text-to-speech — sweeping across the industry.

However, in Lee’s view, the centrality of humans in future production models is not in doubt: “Interestingly, we saw that as the technical aspects of subtitling were covered by AI, translators are actually more focused on creative quality. AI will be a great companion to help humans, but it will never be able to take over the most important element, which is creativity.”

The value Iyuno-SDI places on creativity is reflected in the company’s plans to actively expand into the area of talent development and nurturing. “Even with AI, we massively lack creative talents across the board,” Lee explained. “What we do is a highly creative process and we need to expand the human pool of creative talents, such as creative directors, engineers, and voice talents.”

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According to Lee, the media localization space has traditionally involved highly transactional buyer-supplier relationships. However, he sees promise of more strategic partnerships between producers and localizers in this new era of global content distribution: “The good news is our clients are keen to understand our difficulties — because they have similar challenges — and we are working closely with them to work out a win-win.”

The availability of data on viewership and international audience revenue has illuminated the connection between high quality localization and the success of a piece of content. As a result, media companies now have a deeper appreciation of localization and its role in content distribution.

“Overall, I see a major uplift in this industry in the importance and awareness of creative localization work and its impact on our clients’ success,” Lee said.