Media streaming platform HOOQ has 80,000,000 users across India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. According to Yvan Hennecart, Head of Localization at HOOQ, it is an entertainment platform made in Asia for Asia. “Our current focus is to build deep roots in the territories where we operate and continue developing a strong Asian brand for our region,” Hennecart told Slator.
More than 95% of HOOQ’s library is currently localized into their target languages, Hennecart said. HOOQ’s largest market is India, where they localize into three languages (Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu). They also localize into Tagalog (Philippines), Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, and Mandarin.
“Our focus is mostly on localization of entertainment content; whether it is subtitling or dubbing, we are constantly looking to bring more content to our viewers faster. My role also expands to localization of our platform and any type of collateral information that helps create a unique experience for our users,” said Hennecart, who studied Translations and Applied Linguistics in college and spent two decades in various roles with language services providers before joining HOOQ.
Hennecart said that localization sits within the Content Team at the company and comprises eight members. This in-house localization team is responsible for vendor allocation, assets ingestion and conforming, and the handling of customer support cases related to HOOQ’s localized content. “We also rely heavily on our vendors and partners to support our localization strategy,” he said.
HOOQ’s localization strategy essentially supports that of the Content Team, the end goal being to produce localized content that generates higher engagement levels. And, even as Hennecart’s team works at centralizing this localization strategy to, in his words, bring “layers of efficiencies” into the workflow and maximize the localization budget, “we also understand that local preferences and cultural considerations are best handled by local teams. Therefore, our localization strategy relies on a mix of vendors who present different strengths and capabilities to ensure that our content is most suitable for our viewers.”
“We […] rely heavily on our vendors and partners to support our localization strategy”
While Hennecart described HOOQ’s localization process as traditional and mainly having to do with leveraging centralized assets to come up with content that local viewers can identify with and recognize, he said they have increasingly introduced AI and machine learning into their workflows to speed up the release of localized content. And, as a final step, he said, “We have introduced integrated quality protocols in collaboration with our vendor partners, which allow us to process larger volumes of content more efficiently.”
Hollywood, K-drama, Indie Culture
It was back in 2016 that HOOQ began to produce original content. Asked about the impact this has had on localization, Hennecart said, “Localization is an integral part of our HOOQ Originals strategy in that it enables us to help our viewers discover productions and titles from across the region. HOOQ Originals have been extremely successful for us. We have been recently recognized at multiple Asian Awards events and we are very proud of our producers.”
He added, “So far, we have seen great return on our localization investment for HOOQ Originals and we plan to increase the number of titles available. HOOQ is committed to releasing 100 originals in 2020, and most of them will be available in multiple languages.”
Although most of HOOQ’s content is already available with subtitles, Hennecart said, they continue to explore “various innovative options” so viewers can access content in their own language. “For example, we have recently announced the launch of SmartDub with our partners at SPi Global, an AI-based dubbing methodology applying voice morphology to traditional text-to-speech processing,” he said.
As they strive to drive locally relevant content across Southeast Asia in particular, Hennecart said they recognize that the content strategy in each of their territories will be slightly different based on local preferences.
“So far, we have seen great return on our localization investment for HOOQ Originals and we plan to increase the number of titles available”
He cited the case of HOOQ subscribers in the Philippines who, while they “revel in Pinoy (Filipino) content, also greatly enjoy localized Asian content, such as K-drama.” He added, “Likewise, our regional users seek light and easy Hollywood blockbusters, which are globally popular.”
As for current trends in media entertainment that could potentially impact localization, Hennecart singled out the rise of indie culture. He said, “Across our territories, we are seeing the emergence of groups of viewers who are increasingly interested in local indie culture. Through our HOOQ Originals strategy and our efforts to localize Asian productions, we are hoping to fill an apparent void for content made by Southeast Asian producers for Asian viewers. We aim to keep at the pulse of a vibrant regional film community with events like the HOOQ Filmmakers’ Guild.”
In all this, Hennecart said, HOOQ’s end goal will always be to please local tastes and expectations.