The region is ripe for translated content as Arabic is widely spoken and there is a strong appetite for digital media due to a young population.
LONDON — The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is an “enticing” market in which to use artificial intelligence (AI) to translate and dub foreign-made video content — including news or entertainment — into Arabic to reach wider audiences in the region, said Amir Jirbandey, head of growth and marketing at the UK-based AI start-up Papercup.
This is due to Arabic being widely spoken and the strong appetite for digital media given the region’s young population, Jirbandey told Al-Monitor.
Founded in 2017, Papercup uses AI to dub content into other languages to help it reach wider audiences. The technology can help companies save money by translating content themselves rather than investing heavily into building audiences in the region right out of the gate, Jirbandey said. The company works with organizations such as media and entertainment companies as well as content creators on YouTube.
He said the MENA market is “really enticing” for companies like his because there is a robust appetite for digital content in the region and much of it can be understood in one dialect.
Jirbandey said that for news, it is often Modern Standard Arabic, which sounds more neutral. For entertainment content, there is a high demand for an Egyptian dialect.
“If you start to look at it with the lens of ‘Okay, how could I go after a market where they consume loads of content, and it’s also accepted to have one dialect, that’s where the Middle East becomes really enticing,” Jirbandey said.
In January, Papercup signed a two-year agreement with the UK-based TV production company Fremantle, which saw the startup localize hundreds of hours of video entertainment content from the TV production company’s catalog of talent shows into Arabic. Some of the shows include “Idols,” “Globe’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor,” all of which are streaming on Fremantle’s YouTube channel, Talent World (known locally as عالم المواهب). The channel uses Papercup’s AI technology to automatically translate and dub Fremantle video content into Arabic — a move that aims to reach millions of new viewers across the Arab world over the two-year partnership.
The Papercup executive said that the partnership is the “first piece in the puzzle” for Fremantle and many other media and entertainment companies like them.
“They (those companies) started placing some of these earlier bets with people like us, automating large parts of the localization. And then they started to double down on localizing more but also producing more original content as well,” he added.
Jirbandey does not expect there to be strong demand from Middle Eastern media houses to translate content using Papercup’s technology because large outlets, such as Al Jazeera, have already captured most of the English-speaking market for Middle Eastern news. However, there could be a demand for other languages to be translated.
Jirbandey said that due to “the very sudden” rise in living standards in the region coupled with the ease at which content can be accessed and consumed, there are more entertainment companies looking to dub their content for Middle Eastern audiences.
“Let’s take Saudi Arabia as an example where, in recent times, we’ve seen arts and movies and entertainment content flourish even further, especially Westernized content,” he said. “So you get these people who want to be first movers, to get into those territories and work with us and enable us to help them access those regions at a faster rate and a lower level of investment — not to experiment but to get a foot in the door.”
He said that one of the challenges for content creators in the Middle East is that the cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) is low compared to Europe and elsewhere in the world. This means it is harder for YouTube content creators in the Middle East to monetize their streams.
“A CPM in Germany, for instance, might be something like $567, whereas CPM in some of the Middle East region will be as low as maybe 50 cents or $1,” Jirbandey said. “So the amount of money they get back on the piece of content per 1,000 views is up to 10 times lower than some of the best players in the European region. When it comes to monetizing, that’s one of the main challenges to overcome.”
Source : Al Monitor