Advanced Television

Report: Poor localisation turns off viewers

November 5, 2021

A report on consumer viewing habits of localised content versions from the Entertainment Globalization Association (EGA) indicates that 61 per cent of respondents encountered poor localisation quality on a monthly basis, and perhaps more concerning, that nearly 65 per cent have stopped watching a movie or TV show in the last year as a result.

The EGA, working in part with Whip Media, surveyed over 15,000 consumers from France, Italy, Germany, and Spain (FIGS) regarding their viewing habits on streaming platforms.

“Localisation quality is part of the user experience, and switching off a single show might not seem like a big deal,” suggests said Chris Fetner, EGA’s Managing Director and former Netflix executive who spent nearly a decade supporting its localisation. “However, when 30 per of respondents are doing it monthly, that’s material and it hurts streamers’ brands in these markets. When you go to a movie or watch a DVD, it’s not easy to connect the localisation experience to a specific entity. If it’s bad, do you blame the movie theater chain, or distributor? Do you even know who they are? It’s not the same when streaming; consumers have a monthly reminder of who’s responsible for their enjoyment,” he notes.

Subscription streaming services have a much different localisation quality bar than other experiences, and it’s something the creative community is still getting its head around. Unlike movies, DVDs, or even Transaction Video on Demand (TVoD) services, the barrier to entry for content can be much lower. Consumers already have access to the content, so their sunk costs are pretty low; if they detect poor quality in localisation, it’s not that catastrophic to simply move on to the next choice. In isolation it doesn’t seem so bad, but in the aggregate, it can have long-lasting impacts on the brand associated with the platform.

“Streaming platforms are increasingly looking to have global hits like Squid Game; it’s what makes the scale of their platform appealing, so the fact that localisation quality can be a headwind in that aspiration is noteworthy,” said Matteo Natale, Chair of EGA’s Insights Committee.

Perhaps the most provocative finding in this study is consumers’ expectations around investment in the localisation process. On average, respondents wanted to see a significant portion of their streaming subscription fees dedicated to providing good quality localisation. This expectation far outsizes the current market investment in the process. Furthermore, this is seen as unrealistic even by the EGA membership. The EGA estimates that localisation costs are currently only a small fraction of content costs in the FIGS region.

“The allocation question is interesting; as an association for the globalisation industry it would be easy to say, ‘See, consumers want you to pay more for this,’ but that’s not the point. It’s more about identifying how consumers value it. The survey didn’t get into the hundreds of compromises that impact all the decisions streamers have to make when operating in the FIGS,” said Fetner.

Another perspective on this is the impact localisation can have on creative talent’s ability to connect with audiences around the world. Shows such as Squid Game and movies such as Roma are finding worldwide audiences driven by global streaming platforms such as Netflix.

In fact, one of the appeals of global streamers to creatives is the model’s ability to leverage global scale when attracting viewers. The EGA’s report seems to imply the innate power of global scale could actually be a liability when not coupled with good localisation. Traditionally, filmmakers have left localisation of their stories to distributors and studios, as it wasn’t perceived to have as tightly a correlated impact on their success.

“I imagine some filmmakers and actors will pay attention to this type of data as the global reception of their content becomes increasingly important, not just at the box office, but also in terms of the artistic perception of their work,” commented Marlies Schortinghuis, EGA’s Insights Committee Vice Chair. “Knowing their show or movie could be switched off by 60 per cent of viewers for localisation issues could impact the perception of their success in a region and may lead to more interest in the localisation process by creatives.”

While the report does not suggest immediate or long-term fixes to resolve the quality issue, it does hint at further research on the impact of localisation. The EGA’s Insights Committee is already working on further analysis of the data, including deeper segmentation studies and follow-up inquiries with its sample panels. It will also be launching a similar research project in LatAm in the coming months. The needs of localisation are growing rapidly, making it important the industry gain deeper insights into consumer impact.

“It would be easy to blame one stakeholder over another, but the issue impacts all stakeholders,” asserts Fetner. “Localisation is an important part of global entertainment and EGA members wanted to see where we were today in terms of satisfying consumers. The study showed we have some work to do. I think the goal now is to work with EGA members, content owners, creative talent, and platforms, to move these numbers in a direction that continues to unlock joy and delight from entertainment around the world.”.


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