Client Corner- Q&A with iflix

 In this customer corner, we talk with Christian Testmann, Global Director of Localization at iflix, a subscription video on demand (VOD) service focused on emerging markets. Haymillian provides iflix with dubbing and closed captioning services.

1. iflix first launched its services in Malaysia and the Philippines in May 2015 and has since then become the leading mass market Internet television service in Southeast Asia. Can you tell us a bit about your beginnings and how Internet TV consumption has grown in Asia?

The company was started with a huge desire to provide top content in emerging markets, which was a completely neglected area of the OTT business previously.

The last 2,5 years have been an explosive learning curve for everyone in the company, and the management has created a learning-hungry team as well as a very agile and fast company structure that allows us to quickly change direction when necessary.
As for the consumer insights and demand, we are now seeing a consumer with more focus on quality, going from just being happy to be able to stream TV shows, to demanding better quality, timely subtitles and a larger variety of content, including live sports. This has increased the focus on hiring experienced specialists in critical positions such as in our Localization team to accommodate this demand.

2. Recent years have seen iflix enter other emerging markets outside of Asia, notably Africa and the Middle East. How do these markets differ from Asia or are there more similarities than we would assume?

There is a set of conditions, which tends to exist universally across emerging markets— the prevalence of piracy, inconsistent infrastructure, inconsistent quality and distribution of internet connectivity, expensive and limited mobile data, low paid television penetration, low credit-card penetration and a lack of familiarity with online payment options. We’ve been able to address and solve many of those challenges through technology and commercial partnerships. We have further been able to take the learnings and solutions from one market and apply them new ones and new regions. From a Content standpoint, there were some interesting similarities between Asia and MENA/SSA. Korean dramas are and have been the big thing in Asia for quite some time, and when launching in the Arabic speaking part of the world, the interest for Korean dramas turned out to be just as big. The same happened in Kenya, where viewers engage especially in Korean and Hindi content. Coming from a Western background this is very new and interesting for me personally to see that it’s not all BBC dramas and Hollywood movies/series that are the most popular shows.

3. In your experience what content genres are most popular per region; (Asia, Africa, and the Middle East)?

We are not able to disclose our viewing data to this detail, but I can say we overall see great traction on local content. This is one of the founding premises of iflix – to provide local subscribers with their favourite local content as well as a selection of Hollywood movies, Korean dramas and Bollywood features. Currently, we are seeing a great interest in live sports after launching the live coverage of Malaysia’s Premier League in football a few months ago.

4. What percentage of your content is dubbed versus subtitling and do you find big differences between regions and viewer preferences?

We are around 90/10 in Subtitles’ favour. We have just launched in Morocco which imposed an increased demand for content with French dubbing. We are experimenting with dubbed content of different genres in Bangladesh and Cambodia and so far, viewing numbers look encouraging and we could see an increase in certain content with Khmer and Bengali dubbing.

5. You are pioneers in emerging markets – markets which are extraordinarily diverse in terms of their language, cultures, customs, content and regulations. How do you deal with such challenges like censorship for example which is quite rigid in these regions?

As mentioned before, iflix’s aim is to be as local as possible, and that requires boots on the ground in all markets. For each localized language we are offering, we have a local team in the country that serves not only as translation experts, but also identifies, in collaboration with local Content Curation and Marketing teams, the local content needs and censorship regulations that we have to comply with.

6. You have worked with Haymillian for subtitling and closed captioning of your content. Can you talk about your experience working with us and where you think Haymillian makes a difference?

Haymillian came on-board at a crucial time for iflix, assisting us with localizing a huge backlog of content. With my background in Localization, I had heard about Haymillian but never worked with the company directly. The whole on-boarding process was one of the smoothest we have had with any vendor, and it was comforting for a young company like iflix still learning to crawl to be professionally guided by Haymillian to achieve the goal.
From project management to subtitle quality we are very satisfied working with Haymillian and hope to continue our collaboration in the future.

7. What’s next for iFlix?

Recently we deepened our partnership with Kwese Media, a subsidiary of Econet Group, so there is a massive focus on expansion in Africa. This has been the main driver behind us doubling our Localization team in Kenya to provide subtitles for both local and international content in SSA.
Besides that, there are some very exciting, but still undisclosed, updates coming up across the business very soon that will once again change the way iflix interacts with our viewers.