Señal News: Interview with VSI Group CEO, Mark Howorth

The need for localisation is just as strong as it has always been.

VSI's Group CEO, Mark Howorth recently caught up with Federico Marzullo from Señal News to discuss the current landscape of the dubbing and subtitling industry, the client’s needs for faster turnarounds, and the incorporation of technology and automation into the workflow.

The growth of streaming services has increased the appetite for high-quality media localisation, and there continues to be pressure on the supply chain due to shorter release windows for content. At the same time, streaming platforms have slowly changed their focus, focusing less on increasing their subscriber bases and more on profits. Therefore, they became more selective about what is localised and how.


That is when a company like VSI comes into the picture. With over three decades of experience, it is one of the world’s most sought-after localisation providers, with a global presence, multiple facilities, and coverage of more than 80 languages. Its premise is simple: to help the client take their content globally by ensuring the localised version resonates in every market and safeguarding the integrity of the original. “If you are a studio launching a new TV series or a movie, you will be interested in making it available in as many countries as possible. Interestingly, if you are spending a lot of money on the project, the cost of dubbing and subtitling is very small compared to all the other costs that go into creating it. We understand our customers are now focused on profitability for their streaming platforms. But that really has very little impact on the overall attractiveness of the localisation industry. As long as new content is being created, there will always be a need for localisation. And much new content is still being created,” Mark Howorth, Group CEO of VSI, told Señal News.

Howorth believes this overall focus on streaming profitability is actually a healthy one for the dubbing and subtitling industry. But another critical area comes into play: the efficiency of the service providers. “The need for localisation is just as strong as it has always been, but the focus on profitability means that our customers will start moving towards the larger, more efficient localisation companies. In the past, a client had to contact numerous vendors in different territories to get dubbing or subtitling services in multiple languages. Now, you can call VSI, and with one phone call, we can get you any language combination,” he assured.

This convenience when contracting the service and the speed of deliverables is what differentiates VSI in times when, in addition to efficiency, localisation must be as fast as possible. “There is not a magic button for localisation. Technology helps, but when you localise something, you do not just drop files into a computer, and another language comes out. There is a very large creative process, and clients must plan ahead. While our customers have an eye on their streaming service bottom lines, in the localisation context, shrinking turnaround times is top of mind compared to any temporary volume decreases or the normal pressure on our prices,” Howorth explained.


New context

With more than 30 years in the industry, many things have changed since VSI was founded. New technological developments help streamline processes but do not replace people. For Howorth, the human factor will always be above any technological advance. “Our goal is to use technology to do what we need to do fast, but also to make sure that we are still doing it right. We must be careful because, at the end of the day, what we do is still an art form and very human-based. We know how good AI is, and it is evident that it is a tool for saving time and money, but we still need to have human involvement throughout the workflow,” he mentioned.

According to Howorth, one thing that differentiates VSI from most competitors is its massive network of studios and focus on high quality. “If we say we are going to handle your localisation, we do not give it to a third-party studio. We do it ourselves, and our customers seem to prefer that. And ensuring the quality of output has always been at the centre of our approach. After all, if you serve a gourmet meal on paper plates, it does not have the same impact. As a company, we typically focus on doing high-end episodic content that clients want to ensure is done well. The kind of show people are talking about when they come to work on Monday morning,” he concluded.