Streaming revolution transforms localisation industry

The OTT revolution has changed the way that audiences around the world consume content – with profound knock-on effects for the localisation industry.

In their pursuit for subscribers, leading VOD platforms have invested huge sums on new TV shows and films. Spend on content reached a record $220 billion in 2021, led by the likes of Netflix, Disney, HBO and Apple, according to a recent report by Ampere Analysis. Not only is more content being created than ever before, but the bar is higher too, given the increased competitive landscape. Amazon alone is spending a reported $465 million on the first season of its upcoming Lord of the Rings TV adaptation – four times the budget of Game of Thrones.

As global platforms, the streamers generate a significant proportion of their revenues from international markets. So, they have been careful to ensure that the original content they are spending their money on appeals to international viewers. As a result, they have expanded their language offerings and are localising a huge volume of films and TV shows to cater for their global audiences.


In addition, they have commissioned an array of local language content, aware that locally produced programming is a key draw for subscribers in each country in which they operate. This kind of non-English language content rarely used to travel outside its own borders, but audiences have lapped up international shows from streaming services. Some of the streamers’ biggest recent successes have been foreign language series, from South Korea’s Squid Game to Spain’s La Casa de Papel, both of which were dubbed by VSI. This has led to a growing appetite from viewers for original content from all source languages, which in turn has triggered the spectacular growth in US and British English-language dubbing, something pioneered by VSI studios in Los Angeles and London. Since English-speaking audiences have generally grown up watching original language content only, the standard of English dubbing in terms of creativity and synchronisation has to be particularly high to be readily tolerated and enjoyed.


Taken together, all these changes have had a major impact on the localisation industry. Language service providers (LSPs) are not only localising a greater volume of content than ever before but are also localising more content from multiple source languages.

The localisation process has become more complex too. VOD platforms prefer to launch titles as a box set simultaneously around the world, so a large number of high-quality deliverables need to be ready at the same time. Whereas in the past, new episodes were broadcast weekly, enabling more time for the localisation process.

With the post-Covid production surge, clients frequently require very tight turnarounds. LSPs are having to work faster, often with incomplete versions while production is ongoing, constantly reviewing work and liaising with the client to make sure all nuances and changes are captured in each different language version. Adding to the challenge, there is far greater scrutiny of localisation efforts too. Content is no longer broadcast just once on TV but is accessible indefinitely (and therefore available for review) on a streaming platform – so accuracy and consistency are more important than ever.

Successful LSPs have had to adapt. Agility is key. LSPs must be able to scale up and expand their resources when required so that they can support the needs of clients – while continuing to offer global reach combined with local expertise.

As a result, the client and LSP relationship is becoming less transactional than it used to be.  Consequently, LSPs are becoming strategic partners, especially to their streamer clients. This reflects the fact that LSPs no longer just provide localisation services, but actively help clients to anticipate and to meet demand, and to address industry-wide challenges around issues such as capacity, diversity, inclusion and talent development.

A successful LSP needs to think ahead, and pre-emptively address issues that might arise. If there’s growing demand for new languages or a significant ramp up in certain foreign content, they need to proactively boost their capacity in those languages, sourcing and training the right talent.


It’s all about being a strong partner. Given the volumes that clients are now pushing through, they can’t expect to be hands-on for all projects. They need to be able to rely on a strong, reputable partner who they can trust to deliver and who acts as an extension of their own team.

In this respect, providing centralised account and multi-lingual project management can help. As a global provider, VSI offers a one-stop-shop solution, with its own studios around the world to fulfil dubbing and wider localisation requirements. We centrally manage this extensive creative and technical network in local territories, removing the need for the client to worry about multiple stakeholders, time-zones or cultural nuances. We can help a client manage projects centrally, via one point of contact dedicated to their account. The client of course has the option to communicate directly with our creative teams in our local studios and might also have a dedicated regional team working closely with ours.

A strategic partner can also offer a consistent experience for clients,  providing the same high level of quality control in multiple languages throughout the creative process. For multi-series projects, this means also working with the same translator, adapter and dubbing director – ensuring consistency in terminology so that the localised versions remain faithful to the original.

Crucially, a strategic partner ensures a secure environment for their clients’ content. At VSI, for example, we have worked with clients and regulators to meet strict security expectations, adapting our workflows to meet their needs. Additionally, we provide ongoing internal security training and work on a basis of continual improvement – looking for ways to increase data security in line with industry best practices.

Investment in technology also assists a strategic partner to deliver top quality content to a client. The industry is continuing to experiment with machine technology, evaluating its ability to speed up the localisation process, particularly when high volumes of content need to be translated. For now, the jury is out: audio-visual translation is not as straightforward as text translation, and can actually take longer when the editing process is factored in. It’s also important to remember that technology cannot replace the need for humans in the creative process, particularly for clients who want to stay to true to the essence of the content. The human touch remains vital for successful localisation.

Remote technology, meanwhile, ensures that content can be dubbed even when talent is not able to attend a studio recording. Studio dubbing will, of course, always produce a superior result, but it is useful to know that remote is an alternative when necessary.

The truth is that a localisation vendor constantly needs to adapt to meet the demands and complexity of today’s streaming landscape. It might be a cliché, but the only constant is change for LSPs – staying still in this new era is not an option.


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