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Research: Netflix prioritises dubbing in major EU markets

March 30, 2020

Research by Ampere Analysis has revealed that Netflix customises its localisation strategy for key markets, choosing to prioritise dubbed content in territories such as Japan, France and Germany, while focusing on subtitle use in smaller markets. In most non-English speaking territories, Netflix’s catalogue comprises 90 per cent foreign-language content, making localisation, either through audio dubbing or subtitles, extremely important.

Netflix customises localisation in key markets

  • Even as Netflix has accelerated its local original content commissioning activity, locally-produced titles still represent the minority of its catalogue in all its markets. This means Netflix has to rely on subtitling and dubbing to localise for audiences in its many territories.
  • Netflix overwhelmingly uses subtitles compared to local peers, and in most markets, dubbing represents less than 30 per cent of Netflix’s catalogue of foreign titles.
  • Netflix has taken a tactical approach to dubbed content. In large markets like Japan, where local content is extremely important, over 40 per cent of titles are dubbed and nearly every programme has subtitles.
  • However, Netflix’s dubbing priority is currently focused on the four largest EU markets – France, Germany, Italy, Spain. 60 per cent of foreign content in these territories is dubbed. Furthermore, as the languages spoken in these markets cover multiple territories, investments in expensive dubbing processes can often be spread across other markets too – including Latin America, Africa & Canada, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and others.
  • These levels seen in the largest European markets are nonetheless typically lower than local peers. Maxdome (now Joyn) in Germany and Mediaset Infinity in Italy both have near 100 per cent dubbed content coverage. Netflix’s catalogue is typically larger than peers, however, and its subtitling coverage is often superior.
  • For English-speaking countries and Netflix’s major markets, the player ensures at least 95 per cent coverage of local subtitles. However, large emerging markets currently have lower coverage – Russia and Turkey have low subtitling and dubbing rates – and we expect these markets to be a focus for further localisation efforts as Netflix uptake in mature markets slows.
  • For some markets, dubbing may be unnecessary – in Scandinavia, Netflix has low levels of dubbing coverage. But this is echoed by local Nordic players such as Viaplay, which has equivalently low levels of dubbing – and even lower levels of subtitling, partly because audiences in the region are used to watching English-language programming.

The use of dubbing varies significantly across different language markets

  • For English-speaking markets, local language content comprises 70 per cent of titles. The remaining 30 per cent are mostly subtitled, as in these markets, consumers are less accustomed to watching non-local content, and many of those consumers who watch foreign content prefer subtitles. The size of opportunity for audio dubbed content is thus minimal in these markets.
  • For French, German, Italian and Spanish-speaking markets, around 90 per cent of titles are foreign language, and dubbing is much more common. This is partly due to the scale of the markets, and partly due to the ubiquity of the languages themselves.
  • Outside of a handful of large, key markets (Japan, India, South Korea and the Nordics) any markets that rely on other languages feature far lower levels of subtitling or audio dubbing, with many titles not featuring any localisation at all.

Tingting Li, Analyst at Ampere Analysis, said: “For Netflix, the level of localisation of foreign language titles largely depends on the markets. In English-speaking countries, Netflix’s strategy is to localise foreign titles via English subtitles, while in other key markets, such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, the streaming giant makes certain that most foreign titles are either subtitled or dubbed – catering to local content preferences.  For other markets, such as Russia and Turkey, which represent a smaller portion of Netflix’s subscriber base, and thus harder to justify extensive localisation investments, between 13 per cent and 28 per cent of content is localised – but we expect this to change as market penetration grows.”

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