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Some Of The Best Entertainment Now Comes With Subtitles

Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Thanks to the internet, audiences have been acquiring an appetite for international content for more than two decades, and content producers are now catching up. The sophistication and quality of content from previously unheard of producing nations—Korea, Israel, Turkey, to name a few—is staggering, and viewers everywhere are eager to see the latest and greatest, no matter where it is from.

This presents a quandary for an industry that has historically based its financial assumptions and models on the ability for only content produced in a handful of mega-markets, like the U.S., Canada and U.K, to travel to feed the appetites of audiences globally. 

The dominance of those mega-markets isn’t going away, of course. But increasingly, viewers no longer exclusively want big U.S. tent-pole releases, and have a fast growing appetite for more international content.

Global & Local
The reason, of course, is streaming. Streaming means that everyone with internet access, via 4G or Wi-Fi, has access to international content. And the coming 5G will only accelerate this trend.

In many parts of Asia, for example, audiences expect their streaming services to provide English language (and often American) entertainment and news, but also Bollywood romances, Korean and Mandarin dramas, in addition to their local language programming. The content catalogue, in short, has to be both global and local at the same time for any platform to be successful. In addition, there is talk of “local” made quotas being introduced in a number of the parts of the world.

These international markets also feature deep pools of talented independent filmmakers, whose output is increasingly appealing to a global audience. This happens on the heels of technological advents, and also shorter theatrical releases of major films, which provides more opportunity for independent filmmakers to be featured in theaters. 

Now, these independent filmmakers can reach acquisition teams at broadcasters and streamers all over the world because online B2B content marketplaces are successfully connecting all involved parties (in the absence of markets) regardless of geography.

These independent filmmakers are gaining more and more exposure because the demand for their content is exploding. Consumers are engaging with filmmakers who are drawing inspiration and stories from the rich, deep culture and histories found across Latin America, Europe, India, Asia and Africa. 

No Longer A One-Way Street
For decades, it was easy for Hollywood and other major entertainment capitals to offer whatever they produced to such markets in a pre-packaged, "take-it-or-leave-it" model, if at all. The content flow was largely a one-way street, and it often came in English, with an American accent and an American attitude. Increasingly, this is becoming a two-way street with American audiences keen to watch internationally made content.

Content is being sourced globally in as diverse a stream as the audiences who watch it. Korea, whose “Parasite” won the Best Picture Oscar in 2020, is a good example. So are Turkey, Israel and Nigeria. There are not just audiences in these markets; there are content producers. “Money Heist.” “The Rain.” “Lupin.” “Fauda.” “Tehran.” Global audiences have made these shows major hits—they did not care where they came from. And buyers know it.

Broadcasting, in many countries, has historically been government-granted monopolies/duopolies and as such, hugely profitable. Thus, there was a lot of money to be made by everyone in the entire content supply chain, and audiences had to live with the choices they were offered via these monopolies/duopolies – there was literally no other option. But now this is far from the case.

Entertainment today is an internet-delivered product; a new order and a new playbook is appearing. 

This is a major opportunity for streaming services and studios who are looking to source fresh content—and as Netflix’s $500 million planned investment in Korean content demonstrates—they’re willing to pay for it. 

Content Discovery is Hard
But it also represents challenges. Acquisitions teams now need to source for content globally to make sure they are finding and acquiring the best. Content discovery at a global scale is hard, and evaluating it in light of the volume—even harder. With tens of thousands of films, shows and other promising content in dozens of languages, speed and agility have become critical.

The old, manual model of doing this work solely at industry events in the south of France no longer will do—even when travel begins to open up, and if physical events manage to restart.

Consider the challenge: The supply of content has become increasingly global. The explosion of streaming platforms has fragmented audiences and changed the game in terms of licensing/acquisition. Individual deal sizes may have come down, but the number of deal opportunities has expanded exponentially.   

Competitive advantage is gained by those using digital platforms and the digitalization of transactions—allowing sellers to reach the new generation of acquisitions teams in new markets, and for acquisitions teams to have access to sellers who have great content but don’t have distribution.

The digital ecosystem allows an interested buyer and a willing producer to find each other and transact business 24/7, regardless of their physical location. And without the need to employ additional staff or spend on travel and event tickets, these digital platforms slash the cost of doing business internationally.

Today, great content can come from anywhere and travel everywhere. It’s a global game now. Subtitles are here to stay.

Ian McKee

Ian McKee is the Founder and CEO of Vuulr, the online global film & TV content marketplace which currently comprises over 26,000 titles and 160,000 hours of content across 60 genres and 90 languages. Ian has more than 20 years’ experience in the field of technology, digital marketing and disruptive innovations. Ian was named by Business Insider as one of the top 10 leaders transforming media and advertising in Asia in 2020.