M+E Europe

Localisation Sector Faces Challenges and Opportunities Post-Pandemic

Like the rest of the media and entertainment industry, the localisation sector faced several challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as the industry slowly emerges from lockdowns and faces a new normal challenges remain – but so do opportunities, according to industry experts.

If you would sum up the past 18 months in one word, what would it be? Caroline Baines, director of client services at MESA Europe, asked Sept. 23 at the start of a MESA Europe online panel discussion at the Languages & the Media 2021 event, the 13th annual international conference and exhibition around language transfer in audiovisual media.

“Challenging” was the word cited the most in response. “I think we would all agree that it’s been an incredibly challenging 18 months in many different respects – obviously not just from a work standpoint but from a personal perspective as well,” according to Baines.

Everybody was very “resilient” and adapted to working remote, she said. But not being able to be close to other people was “incredibly difficult,” she noted, adding another word that came to mind of the last 18 months was “rollercoaster.”

Although there was no commute for those working remotely, many people have been working for longer hours at home than they were in the office, she said, adding it was a “tumultuous 18 months.”

Baines and David Millar, MESA Europe director of business development, hosted the discussion with content owners and language service providers (LSPs).

Additional key topics explored included the impact of mergers and acquisitions across the industry, the advancement of technology solutions, the all-important pool of talent, the need for diversity within localisation, and how the sector is gearing up for the end of the year and 2022.

Vanessa Lecomte, localisation operations manager at BBC Studios, agreed with Baines that it was challenging and there was “more work than ever” despite working from home.

“One of the things that has emerged through this pandemic is that we had to quickly adapt to new ways of working. But “we were prepared in advance,” Lecomte said, noting her company had looked into remote solutions before the pandemic so it was confident it could make it work.

“We managed to get to a level of quality for a certain type of content that we were comfortable with using remote and other technology”, Lecomte added.

BBC Studios is, meanwhile, “not set up” to bring dubbing in-house, she said, noting it wants the best people to handle that work and, for now, that’s the outside company it has been using.

One key goal of BBC Studios now is to ensure there is a diversity in talent, she also said.

Giulia Parker, localisation executive at ITV, agreed that the past 18 months have been challenging. But she said she was grateful she was able to continue working and did not lose her job like many other people during the pandemic.

It was amazing that we were all able to pull off all the work we did at home without being at the office or studio at all for such a long period of time, she said.

Her company had to use remote dubbing for certain projects where “there was no way around it,” she also said.

“Uncertainty” was the first word that came to Carlo DeCianti, head of sales at Plint, about the past 18 months, he said.

“From a vendor perspective, I think, no one really knew what was going to happen with the studios basically on hold and production on hold,” according to DeCianti. “Our job only comes in if there’s content to localise in the first place.”

Meanwhile, “adopting to the new workflows or the new world” was a challenge, he conceded. Despite the challenges, there was a lot of “collaboration” and people depended on each other during the period, he said.

“We obviously need the studios to function in order to produce content in order for localisation to happen. But we also need to help that happen,” according to DeCianti.

What was proven in the past 18 months was the “resilience of the industry,” although there were “massive speed humps on the way and hurdles,” he said.

Moving on to the subject of consolidation, DeCianti noted that was happening on the vendor and studio fronts. He predicted one positive of all that consolidation: “I think it will end up increasing the talent pool,” he said, predicting “there will be a talent drive” also.

Machine translation is “definitely here to stay,” he also predicted.

“Opportunity” was the first word that came to Björn Lifvergren, executive chairman of LinQ Media, he said. For one thing, “we founded our company in February this year,” in the middle of the pandemic, he noted.

“There is a different world now,” Lifvergren said. He’s been able to work on private equity from home during the pandemic, whereas, in the past, he had to travel often, he noted. Before the pandemic, it was hard to imagine being able to work without travelling, he said. But “we’re a much more global world today,” he said.
“There will be dramatic change in the coming 24 months,” Lifvergren predicted, adding: “We need to be open to change. We need to embrace change.”

His focus now is making sure he brings the “right people” into his new organisation, he said. But “there’s a lot of opportunities out there for the talent pool,” he concluded.