Distributing content can be time-consuming and expensive. Localizing for new regions can significantly improve ROI and viewership figures. However, the market is increasingly competitive, the ongoing translator shortage is lengthening timelines and production costs, and traditional studio dubbing can't localize content at scale.
AI dubbing offers a fast and scalable solution that can solve many of these issues, unlocking new audiences in the process. However, content owners accustomed to traditional studio dubbing have been cautious about adopting the technology. Some are reluctant to embrace AI dubbing while their current dubbing workflow remains functional – operating under a motto of "if it's not broke, don't fix it". However, such an approach leaves them vulnerable to missing out on significant opportunities as competitors look for strategic ways to diversify revenue.
Blockbuster’s shocking fumble to Netflix back in the late Aughts and, more recently, Netflix being nipped at the heels by offerings such as Disney+ reveals the importance of placing strategic bets. Sometimes growth comes from unexpected places, and in a market where the only constant is change, sticking to one strategy has a high risk of diminishing returns. Distributors need to consider how to optimize ROI amid rising translator demand, decreasing profit margins, and the sheer proliferation of content on offer. Not engaging with technical developments puts businesses in a vulnerable position compared to competitors willing to innovate.
Here’s why now is the best time to incorporate AI dubbing into your distribution strategy.
Business theorist and consultant Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” to explain what he saw occurring between competitors as a market or industry developed. Christensen broke down industry advances into sustaining and disrupting innovations. “Sustaining innovations” worked to build complexity and additional expensive features within existing models. “Disruptive innovations,” in contrast, allowed “a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill” (Source). By bucking the trend and adopting a new business model, disruptor companies improved profit margins, unlocking whole target markets that weren't previously viable. This success, in turn, threatened the market share of incumbent players.
Blockbuster believed they could comfortably continue operating within their existing business model. Joel Meyer, former Marketing Director at Netflix, reveals that “they purposefully ignored us for years”.
Studio vs. AI dubbing
There's a clear parallel between the "sustained" innovation within studio dubbing and the "disruptive innovation" of AI. Studio dubbing is traditional, expensive, and not particularly scalable. In recent years, developments in AI dubbing have dramatically increased the sophistication of automated localization. Now, AI looks to be on course to meaningfully impact the direction of the whole translation industry (Slator). Content producers and distributors should be primed for a status-quo shift on par with the switch from DVD rentals to streaming.
AI dubbing allows auto-scaling and the production of content across several languages within timelines that are a fraction of the traditional studio dubbing process. It's comparatively inexpensive and accessible to consumers ranging from media conglomerates to individual FAST channel distributors. Its impact on the industry is hard to overstate: AI dubbing has unlocked new markets and improved profit margins for numerous companies, including Insider and Sky News. As a result, a greater number of content distributors have skin in the game.
What this means for content owners
Precisely because it is newer, can serve those without a studio-level budget, and has fewer barriers to access, well-established outlets sometimes overlook AI dubbing. For every Insider and Sky News unlocking new markets, diversifying revenue streams, and improving content ROI with a tool like Papercup, there are just as many organizations stuck playing in one lane, operating as a Blockbuster instead of a Netflix.
There are use cases that, at least for now, benefit from studio dubbing. We're not at the stage where a big-budget Hollywood movie is being dubbed entirely with AI. However, this doesn't mean the move toward AI can be overlooked. As a result of the translator talent crunch, investment in technological innovation is only growing - the longer distributors ignore this shift, the greater the risk of being outcompeted or struggling to catch up. Incorporating AI now empowers distributors to scale up production later. It introduces the opportunity to develop and hone a content strategy, create new streamlined workflows, and plan for global or regional content releases. Take Sky News utilizing Papercup for a Spanish-language channel: not only do they gain a whole LATAM audience off the bat, but they can continue honing content options, while also becoming known as a reliable global news source in the region.
Considering where AI fits into your localization strategy isn't an all-or-nothing endeavor. However, it's an area to begin exploring soon as possible. Look ahead to where the industry is heading: don't turn around in a year and realize you've missed the boat (and a large chunk of market opportunity as a result).
Talk to Papercup's team of experts about your content strategy or to see a demo of AI dubbing in action. Because when disruptive technology is involved, early adopters have the advantage.