Advanced Television

Report: Global operators need localisation

June 20, 2017

TVT, the managed media services provider, has released a report outlining the key video content localisation challenges that broadcasters, on-demand service providers and other TV operators need to overcome to successfully expand into rapidly growing international markets.

“There are huge opportunities in the growing international TV marketplace for content owners, video streaming services and others prepared to invest in new frontiers for their business,” says Ian Brotherston, Chief Executive of TVT. “But there are also inherent risks and big potential costs for operators that take a wrong step – especially for those going into new markets without detailed knowledge of cultural nuances, accepted TV norms and local broadcast regulations. There is a real art to versioning content for new territories.”

The TVT report, entitled The Art of the International Content Journey, touches on the forces driving opportunities in new markets, citing published figures from Digital TV Research that show OTT and video revenue surging globally. The TV business intelligence firm projects revenue growth of 35 per cent in the developed North American market between 2016 and 2021, 88 per cent in Europe, 129 per cent in Latin America, 137 per cent in Asia Pacific, and 292 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa.

The paper, which gathered insight and examples from TVT’s work for clients such as Netflix, Hulu, A+E Networks, Discovery Communications and BBC across the world, explores the specific issues operators must tackle in preparing foreign video content for linear broadcast, OTT, catch-up TV and VoD. The whitepaper looks at the ‘art’ of dealing with not just local broadcast regulations, but the taboos and finer cultural distinctions that impact audience perceptions and reactions.

Critical challenges in compliance and local audience versioning highlighted in the whitepaper include:

  • Getting the language right – Meeting local language needs depends on cultural preferences, regulations and even genre, as a nature documentary might be narrated in the local language, a situation comedy dubbed, a news programme subtitled, and a reality show voiced over while the original audio track runs at a reduced volume – and the mix differs for each market.
  • Dealing with sex, violence and other red flags – Rules and cultural tolerance for graphic scenes that include sex, violence, bad language, drug use and potentially offensive religious elements vary widely based on country, regulator, time of day and channel brand values. An operator may require multiple versions of a programme for various timeslots and formats (e.g. linear or VoD).
  • Keeping within legal limits – Understanding legal requirements and potential liability is essential in creating versions of content such as traffic cop programmes, real-life crime shows and court case documentaries or other – where in many cases the identities of people not convicted of a crime, or who have finished serving a jail sentence, have to be protected.
  • Crafting smooth edits – Editing scenes with graphic images or language without losing the flow of the story is critical – as is cutting down content created without ad breaks, or with ads in the ‘wrong places’. And protecting viewers with photosensitive epilepsy from strobe effects, sudden changes in lighting, vertical blinds, striped patterns, or even certain colours is key for editors.
  • Tracking what’s in each show – Logging accurate and rich data for every show – participants, actions, and potential flashpoints in each scene – is vital for compliance and effective versioning. For example, terms such as ‘plane crash’ must be logged, so that in the event of a major air disaster, a broadcaster knows to pull a scene, or entire programme, that could upset audiences.

Brotherston notes that the pitfalls of local versioning can often be very subtle: “It’s easy to fall afoul of local rules or cultural sensitivities if you don’t know them inside out – showing a tattoo on-screen in South Korea, for instance, or use of the word ‘God’ as an exclamation in Poland, or preparation of a pork dish in a cookery show broadcast in the Middle East, or allowing US-style product placement in the more restrictive European market, or depicting prominent drug use in in Japan.”


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