During the initial launch phase of Disney+, to chase as many subscribers as possible to catch up with Netflix, Disney has been creating a huge amount of international content it has been creating for its streaming services, including Disney+, Hulu and Star+.
Netflix has had some considerable success with shows like Korea’s “Squid Game”, Spain’s “Money Heist” and France’s “Lupin”. These shows have been international juggernauts, with viewers around the world. With these shows becoming massive hits, many of the studios followed the trend, resulting in Disney creating a huge wave of new content from Korea, Japan, Indonesia, France, Turkey, Spain, Germany and across Latin America.
The initial idea was that this content would boost subscriptions in those local countries, who maybe aren’t interested in the main Hollywood content, while also providing the streaming service with more content for subscribers. However, now that Disney and most of the other studios are no longer chasing subscriber growth, instead, focusing on profitability, we’re seeing some big changes on Disney’s own streaming services, Disney+, Hulu and Star+. With original content production being reduced, job losses, and many original shows from Latin America and Turkey being completely removed from streaming services as a tax write-off.
Bob Iger has spoken out about some countries getting carried away, creating too much-localised content and not focusing on the global content. He’s also stated that they will be cutting back on how many international originals they create, plus he even said some countries will no longer get local originals if Disney+ doesn’t make enough profit. We’ve seen international commissions for new international originals slow down and reports of teams being reduced in many countries around the world.
And one aspect that has become a worrying trend this year, is how Disney seems to have drastically slowed down dubbing for most of its international originals, and it is also offering fewer dubbing options for many of its US-made new shows and films. All of this combined is because Disney is looking to make its streaming services more popular and spending money on international originals that people aren’t watching in big enough numbers, or spending money on dubbing these shows into multiple languages.
Dubbing is a costly process, since actors are required to play the role of every character in the film, re-recording lines in a different language. Plus, they also need additional dialogue directors, mixers, recording engineers, editors and supervisors to create the dubbed track for each episode or film. And for each individual language, a dubbing track is created for, a whole new set of actors and crew. So it’s easy to see why offering fewer dubbed options can make a difference if Disney is looking to cut some costs.
For example, if we look at the French Original series, “Weekend Family”. The first season had dubbing available in over fifteen different languages, while the second season was only available in eight.
Disney is still offering multiple language options for its global and international content in the form of subtitles, which can be produced for a film or show at a much lower cost than dubbing. So audiences around the world can still enjoy this content, but only if they can read, as this will have a huge impact on the internationally deaf community, since it basically means deaf subscribers won’t be able to enjoy many of the recent titles at all.
There are many other issues with dubbing and subtitles. Often this was the excuse given as to why some US shows, and films would be delayed from an international release. Many of the dubbing studios around the world have said they’ve been under lots of pressure, working on all the different shows and films from the different studios. Italy’s main dubbing studio has also been on strike, with overwork being one major issue. The current actor’s strikes may also be playing into some of the most recent releases and may impact on some future title releases.
Unfortunately, while audiences around the world are embracing more international shows, not every show released is a big global hit. According to the TV Grim Reaper’s data from Neilsen, the recent second season of “Weekend Family”, only accrued about 242,000 minutes of viewing in its first week in the United States at the end of June, beginning of July. And that includes the minutes from the first season as well. If you assume that all of those views came from new viewers and they watched all sixteen episodes, only 525 people watched the show. If you assume that those minutes watched were only from the existing subscribers returning to watch all eight episodes of the second season, just over 1000 people watched it in the United States. And this is a major reason why Disney looks to be drastically cutting back its dubbing options. Audiences don’t seem to be watching international originals on Disney+ in big enough numbers to warrant those additional costs.
Since Bob Iger’s return as CEO, the whole company has been doing a review of its entire business and looking to make cost-saving moves. And unfortunately, it looks like dubbing is one area that Disney has drastically reduced its spending. As Disney reduces its overall amount of original content, to focus on global releases and offer a more curated list of programming, it should become easier for Disney to get shows dubbed and subtitled for the global audience. For major theatrical releases and the tentpole major series, it’s much easier to justify the additional cost of dubbing, but for shows that will reach a smaller audience, that cost looks now to be under the microscope.
Honestly, it’s understandable why many international subscribers are becoming more frustrated with Disney+ and are starting to unsubscribe, as more and more newer releases are unavailable in their native language. While many people do enjoy watching films and shows with just subtitles, many more want to just relax while watching a show or film. However, its worth noting that other streaming platforms like Netflix, don’t offer multiple dubbed languages for every international film or show, nor do other streaming services, but it’s very noticeable that Disney has been drastically cutting back on how many dubbing tracks it offers on its recent releases
Do you think Disney should make dubbed versions of all their films and shows? Let us know on social media!
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.