Over the course of the last 2 months, there is no arguing that one of the biggest topics in entertainment – particularly movies – has been the post-apocalyptic thriller, Bird Box. Disclosing some numbers, Netflix has claimed that, in the first 4 weeks of the film’s global streaming availability, it has been viewed by an estimated 80 million households. Putting that 20-million-household-a-week number into perspective, on one of the weeks in question (January 7th), the top network live TV NFL playoff game attracted 33 million viewers, while the top scripted show – The Big Bang Theory – only managed 13 million viewers.
Moreover, Bird Box is not an outlier or a fluke. A Spanish-language offering, Elite, boasted 20 million viewers in its first 4 weeks. The British comedy-drama series, Sex Education, has also surpassed the 40 million mark in its first 4 weeks. Additionally, Netflix original series like the soon-to-be-ending Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Things have consistently posted several million views in their first few days after release.
While these numbers do obviously demonstrate that Netflix is creating original entertainment that people want to see, it is also signalling a seismic shift in how we get our entertainment. Looking at market numbers from a 2019 Media & Entertainment Industry Outlook, 55% of US households subscribe to at least one streaming service, to the tune of about USD 2 billion monthly. Extrapolating this domestic data globally, the global video-on-demand market is projected to grow by USD 33 billion, or 11% compound annual growth rate, over the next 5 years.
Though this growth is possible, the key to making it a reality will be found in multimedia localisation. Simply put, the most robust entertainment offering over the best platform with the best streaming connection won’t matter unless the content, as well as the ability to easily locate and review it, is made available to the market in a language the market understands.
Looking specifically at Netflix, it should come as no surprise that algorithms involving a consumer’s likes/dislikes, ratings, searches, watch history, trends, and preferences are analysed in order to search for content currently available as well as research what content a market would like to see produced. With a typical homepage configuration involving 40 rows of up to 75 titles per row and all potential avenues for algorithm inputs, the need for precise linguistic understanding is of vital importance.
Where the “rubber meets the road” though, is the product itself. Expanding from 5 years ago, when Netflix only supported content in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, the company now offers content in 190 countries and supports over 20 languages, including Chinese, Korean, and Arabic. Still, there are many languages left to be translated and this has resulted in Netflix introducing the first online subtitling and translation test and indexing system in 2017 which seek to find and employ the best human translators worldwide. The Hermes project turned out to be way too ambitious in its aim of onboarding thousands of translators around the globe and closed last year, leaving all multimedia localisation activities in the hands and multimedia localisation tools of the localisation vendors that Netflix partners with.
”… we decided vendors were better suited to use their core competencies and add value to the content localization ecosystem by owning the recruiting, training and onboarding processes.” — Allison Smith, Program Manager, Localization Solutions, Netflix.
Currently, Netflix uses an in-house strings management tool (The Global String Repository) for its UI (user interface) and localises its content for its target markets in partnership with numerous preferred vendors around the world, grouped into The Netflix Post Partner Program (creating post, dubbing, audio description, quality control and post-production) and The Netflix Preferred Fulfillment Partner (a worldwide network of media fulfilment companies).
Netflix is among the largest buyers of localisation services with an estimated annual content budget of USD 10 billion and a localisation budget estimated at USD 100 million per year to be separated between numerous LSPs and media localisation service providers; with scalability, quality, and maintaining control over the localisation process remaining the top challenges.
And while Netflix chooses to collaborate with multiple specialised vendors, most buyers of localisation services within media entertainment prefer the single-source solution model and to partner with a single LSP having a global network of in-house teams, scalable processes and quality management.
EVS Translations is a unique LSP with its Translation as a Service concept and an in-house model, which has steadily grown and evolved over the past 25 years. The scalability of all processes is guaranteed by global teams of in-house linguists and project and quality managers. The AV specialists at EVS Translations are experienced with various multimedia localisation software tools and the global in-house teams of translation engineers are available to design customer-tailored media localisation solutions to offer the speed and cost-saving benefits of AI and neural machine translation, while also possessing the oversight of human translators and editors. Stringent adherence to quality management certifications ISO 9001:2018 and ISO 17100:2018, an ERM system, standardised and process-oriented workflows, and a full compliance with latest data security regulations guarantee the successful outcomes for all multimedia localisation projects.