M+E Connections

Spherex Intros Newsfeed While Making Strides With SpherexGreenlight

Data and technology company Spherex introduced a newsfeed called World M+E News on Nov. 17 that it said aggregates stories from around the world related to the globalisation of TV and film content.

Meanwhile, the company is seeing increased demand for its SpherexGreenlight technology, Teresa Phillips, Spherex CEO and co-founder, told MESA in a recent phone interview.

Spherex is providing World M+E News as a service to the entertainment industry “as culture becomes more critical and TV and film content goes global,” it said.

Today, to succeed in the global streaming wars, media and entertainment companies must pay attention to the cultural mores of the countries in which they’re distributing content to avoid censure, offence and loss of revenue, Phillips explained to MESA.

It is absolutely crucial for the makers of films and TV shows to effectively localise content to achieve global success and understanding the complexity and diversity of each market is a key part of that, she said.

“We advise and culture-fit content for international distribution” from Hollywood studios, distributors and streaming video platforms, she explained. “The first thing they have to do is their content has to be compliant with local content regulations. So it has to have appropriate age ratings, similar to” the Motion Picture Association in the U.S.

“Every country has its own age classification system” based on elements that include “violence, nudity, sexuality, smoking – they’re all unique to every culture,” she noted. “We help our clients appropriately classify their content and provide the appropriate consumer advisories so that they are compliant with local regulations and standards.”

Using its methodology and technology while screening a movie, Spherex “systems will generate the appropriate age ratings based on all these rules that we’ve codified and embedded into our systems,” she explained. If the rating ends up being too low for a movie, “they’re in legal jeopardy” and “there’s a whole host of penalties and sanctions that go along with what most of the world calls exploitation of children,” she said.

Meanwhile, if a rating ends up being too high for a movie by being overly conservative for that market, the company could lose a significant amount of revenue for that title because they’re “missing their target market” possibly and kids in a certain age range won’t see the movie, she explained.

As an example, she noted that Australia censors profanity so companies will often “bleep the F word” from a movie there and the companies might think that is adequate to cover their legal bases, she said. However, a rule there is that, “if a camera is close up or you can see the characters’ lips and you can make out that they’re actually saying the F word, they still count it, whether you can hear it or not,” she warned.

Singapore, meanwhile, is very conservative about blood, she noted, adding it can be a lengthy process to make sure each movie is appropriately rated for each country. Drugs and LGBQT issues are big issues now in that country, she said. India, meanwhile, is “very sensitive to religion,” she pointed out.

She pointed to the popularity of the South Korean TV show Squid Game on Netflix that is very popular now, noting that is an example of the growing hunger for more international content by American TV audiences.

Spherex technology can make sure content like that can continue to be consumed globally without the fear of being censured, according to Phillips.

In recent years, there have been over 20 instances of M&E companies being censored or banned in countries globally for content that wasn’t assessed and adapted properly for local audiences in their global markets, Spherex pointed out. It happened with the French film Cuties when it was imported to the U.S. and was lost in translation; and it happened with the Indian Hindi-language TV series Sacred Games when it was distributed globally with religious references that were enormously offensive to certain audiences, Spherex noted.

“Spherex is pioneering the concept of culturalisation as a critical success factor for studios, streamers and networks as they ramp up their international distribution efforts,” Phillips said in announcing World M+E News.

“Our goal is to make it easier for all of these companies to reach bigger audiences and generate more revenue by providing the tools to educate the industry about the importance of culture in content distribution,” she said in a news release.

Spherex Greenlight Update

While announcing SpherexGreenlight in June, the company described it as a revolutionary new technology solution that combines machine learning and human curation to capture societal and cultural cues from over 120 countries around the world that are then applied to movies and TV shows set for global distribution, it said.

SpherexGreenlight enables producers, studios and networks to adapt their new release content quickly and easily to be fully compliant and reach larger audiences in every market around the world, it said.

The technology makes Spherex’s job much easier. But Phillips said: “It’s taken us a number of years to get here because we had to codify the knowledge and then we had to embed it in the systems and then we had to build other systems and AI so that we can scale it.”

“We have six” clients that are using SpherexGreenlight so far and “another six that are looking at it, that we’re in negotiations with right now,” Phillips told MESA on Nov. 12.

“Two of the six clients are brand new clients” that Spherex had not worked with before, she said, adding the other four were already clients when they added SpherexGreenlight.

The company is now eyeing now building an artificial intelligence platform that, with “very little or no human intervention, can get 80 percent” of content analysed, she said. That will enable Spherex to “really ingest content at scale,” she added.

Spherex is also “figuring out a way to perhaps turn our cultural knowledge into a data feed of sorts” for large companies that don’t necessarily want to use its service, she said.

“We don’t really know what that’s going to look like yet [but] we’re talking to some people about it,” she added, noting that would mean Spherex “intelligence might find its way into big companies’ systems.”