Meta and WarnerMedia collaborated closely to create the Meta Localisation Manager – a unique platform turbocharging localisation processes, helping to connect WM content with global audiences.
In 2018 Time Warner and AT&T merged to become the new entertainment giant: WarnerMedia. This merger was the catalyst for significant technological transformation within the newly consolidated group, and the announcement of the HBO Max streaming platform further signalled the intent to position the business as a leader in direct-to-consumer streaming entertainment.
SVP of International Operations for WarnerMedia, James Crossland, recognised an opportunity to replace legacy technology and help maximise the value of WarnerMedia’s immense catalogue. A complete overhaul of the International Supply Chain was begun, with best-in-class vendors meticulously reviewed & selected to support the newly defined business and its objectives.
WarnerMedia tasked Meta with housing their title catalogue in 2018, and shortly after, Meta went live with their content metadata platform, which was very well received by internal teams for its intuitiveness and ease of use. The management of content localisation had historically been handled through multiple custom-built internal software solutions, spread across the organisation, so the decision was quickly made to start afresh. With Meta already housing the international title catalogue, the company became the natural candidate to handle the new localisation ordering & management processes.
The challenge of localisation
In most international media organisations, the process of preparing content for global audiences involves dozens of teams across multiple departments communicating with a vast network of localisation studios. Hundreds of people, scattered across multiple time zones, speaking numerous different languages - this is the kind of business ecosystem that is a breeding ground for miscommunication, task duplication and cost inefficiency - and a scenario ripe for an automated cloud-based solution.
Previously, WarnerMedia's Programming and Operations Teams would call or email the Technical Delivery Teams to prepare assets for content localisation. The Technical Delivery Team would then prepare the content in line with technical and editorial requirements specific to the region and deliver it to one of over two hundred localisation studios to prepare subtitles, dubs, translations, graphics and artwork.
Communication between internal teams and the studios was happening via emails, calls and spreadsheets and localised assets were not always returned on time, correctly labelled, or delivered to the right place within the Asset Management System (MAM).
The challenge for Meta, along with Crossland and his teams at WM, was to engineer a platform that would streamline and consolidate the core localisation processes, increasing employee productivity whilst reducing the margin for human error, and all the while keeping a clear audit trail of orders and assets through the international supply chain.
The collaboration between WarnerMedia and Meta to find a solution to these problems was comprehensive. The Meta team were embedded into the offices of WarnerMedia for six months to allow the hour by hour, day to day, face to face interactions required to build relationships based on trust and deep understanding. The Meta team asked each key stakeholder in the localisation value chain three questions; How do you do things today? What are your key challenges? How would you design the perfect solution from scratch? These answers continue to guide Meta's priorities today.
Meta also undertook extensive consultations directly with the localisation studios. The questions asked were; How do you receive orders from WarnerMedia today? How could this be improved? What are the bottlenecks? How would you redesign this process from scratch? These consultations yielded more valuable insights that further informed the technical solution.
As the MAM holds both the source for, and the output from the localisation process, Meta spent a substantial amount of design and development effort on this integration + User Interface. Whilst the technical complexity of data patterns in and out of these systems is substantial, it needed to be presented to users in a clear and understandable way. Now the WarnerMedia Programming Operations team can simply log into the beautifully intuitive Meta user interface and create highly specialised orders detailing all the technical and regional requirements for any piece of content.
The platform leverages Meta’s cloud architecture, advanced React design components and API gateway to connect orders from Programming and Operations, through to over 200 external Localisation Studios. The platform then keeps a clear audit trail of all localisations, minimising the risk of asset duplication and reducing the margin for human error. The improvements in efficiency are manifold.
The process begins with the creation of a simple collection of titles from the master WarnerMedia catalogue that are intended for localisation. With the title selection complete, the user chooses the languages that need to be covered under the order - adding the relevant internal stakeholders that provide sign-off for each given language - and the type of localisation required – e.g. dubs, subs, translations, etc. With the key attributes defined, Users can then drill down into incredible detail to configure each language: which studio to use, desired turnaround time, graphics, dubbing and accessibility requirements and more.
At each stage the order is validated, checking the right source assets for each title exist already in the right place in the MAM. Once the order is completed & submitted, a relevant senior stakeholder in the business is notified for approval. All master and compliance edits, alternate audio tracks and subtitles are clearly presented within an easy to access UI so users can quickly see what components are available for a given title and therefore what new localisations need to be ordered. It's now also clear to users exactly what has been ordered and when, giving a clear indication of what dubs and subs in what language can be expected against a title.
On approval, Meta first packages up all the Metadata required for translations and sends this directly to the studio - once the translations are completed and returned they appear in the Meta platform automatically - in a "Proposed" state, awaiting approval and internal sign-off. Meta then creates new placeholders in the MAM for the newly specified subs & dubs, and then triggers the relevant export and delivery process that is pre-defined for each studio. Meta then notifies the technical delivery team of what has been ordered and where to store the new assets when they are returned to the MAM.
Meta enables a clear audit trail of communication between Warner's internal teams and their external partners, eliminates the possibility of task duplication and keeps a centralised record of all global assets. The highly complex process is made elegantly simple for the end user. The clear and intuitive design principles of the Meta UI also reduces the amount of training required for WarnerMedia's Programming and Operations staff. Instead of a new recruit requiring a personal introduction to the technical delivery team and the vast network of localisation studios, a run through guide of how to make an order via Meta is all they require. Furthermore, the avoidance of duplication of work, and the clear visibility of existing subs and dubs, via Meta’s content metadata platform, delivers improved efficiency and lower costs.
“Through our collaboration on the Meta Localisation Platform our teams can now localise content using an intuitive interface and keep track of the assets we use to bring world class entertainment to global audiences, while enjoying a user experience that simply wasn't possible before.”
James Crossland, SVP of International Operations
“At WarnerMedia, we were excited to engage early on with Meta and bring our own expertise, experience and ambitions to bear in a mutual investment of ideas and knowledge sharing. We believe rich metadata communicated efficiently throughout our supply chain is key to how we connect our content to our audiences. We’re always looking for ways to use new technologies to improve our business processes.”
James Crossland, SVP of International Operations
'We’re proud of the localisation platform we have developed with WarnerMedia. It’s proof of how it’s possible to really comprehend the precise nature of a business issue in another organisation, and work hand-in-glove to co-operate with them to tailor a solution, that is not just bespoke to their needs, but one that will benefit all of our customers.'
Rob Tucker, Founder and CPO, Meta