There is money in becoming multilingual: What other streaming services can learn from Netflix Netflix’s growth is fueled by the localization of multilingual content
Netflix is cool.
Right now, the streaming service giant has a very solid lead over its competition. In the second quarter of 2021, Netflix has 209 million paid subscribers worldwide. That’s 16 million more subscribers for the same time period as last year and over 50 million more than Amazon Prime Video, which is its closest competitor.
So what is behind this success? What can other streaming services learn from Netflix? How does it handle localization? Localization is the process of adapting content for a specific location.
Location services: the secret to Netflix’s growth
Several factors fueled the rise of Netflix. On the one hand, it is one of the pioneers in the field. With Hulu, it was already streaming even before its competition was conceptualized. In fact, it was the success of Netflix that spurred the creation of other streaming services.
Another reason the company has been able to get so many subscribers is that it has kept the price of the subscription to its service quite low. Low prices are always a draw.
Being prime and low cost has its perks, but what is the main factor that has caused the growth of Netflix that other streaming services and maybe even other companies in different industries can learn from?
It pays to be multilingual
The biggest driver of Netflix’s phenomenal growth is its content.
In its early days, it only streamed existing movies and TV shows, but in 2013 the company started producing its own original content. So far the company has produced 1500 original titles. Many of these movies and shows have gone on to become major hits.
While the company initially focused on English content, it soon realized that in order to grow it would have to offer content in other languages as well.
Not only does Netflix produce international original content, it also locates the movies and shows it offers. This is the secret of its expansion in more than 190 countries.
The art of localization
How does Netflix make its content accessible to its global audiences? The company uses localization.
Localization consists of adapting a product, in this case video content, to the conditions of the new market in which it is introduced. For example, the Narcos series was produced in the United States and was shot in Spanish. It was a huge success and that was in part due to the localization efforts that made it accessible to most Netflix subscribers.
Localization services are more than just translating or dubbing the speech of the content. It is also about taking into account the culture of the market. Tomedes, a third-party translation agency, is known as an expert in the art of localization. He manages location services by working with experienced people who understand the requirements and limitations required in their field, in particular the cultural specificities of their target market. Localization also involves being updated with the latest trends and developments in the target location.
Besides the language, Netflix also changes the choices and available content based on the user’s location. Movies and shows available in one country may not be viewable in another.
Since the content displayed on the interface is location based, trending content will also vary by country or region. For example, while the most popular movie on Netflix as of September 29, 2021 in the United States is Britney vs. Spears, in Saudi Arabia it is No one comes out alive.
It’s not just Netflix content that is localized by translation, dubbing, and the use of captions. The company also localizes the interface of its platform. This is very crucial when localizing for countries like Japan.
It may sound simple, but the company found it quite difficult.
One of the technical issues that technicians have with localization is that the text on the interface will expand when using another language. As the source language is normally English, the text can sometimes be 40% longer when translated into the target language. This can be a problem as the text could ruin the interface layout if not updated.
The user interface of the Netflix platform has been designed in English and English. When the text is translated there will inevitably be layout issues. These problems would appear every time the text is translated.
So what is the solution to this problem?
Do Netflix’s localization services just translate and tweak the interface? They use what is called pseudo localization, which consists of checking what the text would look like when translated without going through the actual translation process.
With pseudo-translation, UI teams can verify how the layout would appear in other languages while maintaining readability in English.
It’s a pretty technical process, but the bottom line is that it saves the business a lot of time and money. Having to make massive interface changes later for each language used will take a lot of effort to correct.
Other location factors
The Location Services team for Netflix takes other factors into account.
For example, scripts and writing systems are read and written in different directions. They can be read from right to left for example. Besides the meaning and length of the text, the appearance of the text in the target language should also be considered by the translation services team.
So what can other streaming services from Netflix learn?
First, the expansion does not come from nowhere. Although Netflix was a pioneer in the streaming service industry and was ahead of everyone else, they weren’t complacent. They actively pursued expansion, and they used the localization and power of multilingual content to their advantage.