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IYUNO Media Group: A Front-Runner In The Multi-Language Subtitling Space
From DVD companies to broadcasters to over-the-top (OTT) service providers, the media and entertainment industry has evolved enormously. Since IYUNO Media Group’s inception in 2002, David Lee, founder and CEO, has been a part of this evolution. His journey from working as a subtitler to managing his own broadcast media company has been a turbulent rollercoaster ride.
Lee recalls the days when he would go to an agency, watch a videotape, rewind the audio on his VHS tape recorder, and then use the word processor to provide subtitles. The agency professionals, however, did not understand the original language of the video, which was why Lee had to add the phonetics of the original language next to each line of the subtitles, one by one. Alternatively, he had to type the time codes that he saw on the screen—a completely manual process—and deliver the final results in a Word document instead of a subtitling file format. Lee continued with this tedious process until he established his own company 15 years ago.
The 26-year old entrepreneur started his translation company, IYUNO, with funding of $6,000 in South Korea. Now it is one of the world’s leading media localization companies, providing over 45 different language services in more than 14 countries. With its headquarters in Singapore, IYUNO maintains an extensive portfolio of high-quality language customization services, including subtitling, dubbing, captions, and post-production services. Using cutting-edge technologies, IYUNO services studios, high-profile content owners, international broadcasters, and OTT service providers.
IYUNO started its journey in the media and entertainment space with companies that offered only DVDs. “These firms asked us to use primitive tools to create SMI subtitle files and add accurate time codes. As a client-driven company, we worked according to their requirements,” reminisces Lee.
After a year or two, the Korean DVD industry witnessed a downfall. IYUNO suffered since its clientele were mostly DVD companies. Consequently, Lee identified his next opportunity as delivering subtitles to cable broadcasters who at that time were flourishing. He discovered that the broadcasters used professional video decks, which were too expensive for IYUNO. The company explored cost-effective ways to work on the subtitles.
Subtitling with a Non-linear, Computer-based Software
The IYUNO team found an economic solution in MediaTrans - IYUNO’s first development of software, originally created by an engineering student. MediaTrans automated the layouts of subtitles on non-linear editing systems.
MediaTrans worked the same way as the tool used for DVD subtitle delivery, but it could also export subtitles into computer-based editing software instead of heavy-duty equipment, which saved IYUNO huge CAPEX costs. Around the same time, the industry witnessed a significant shift from expensive hardware-based linear editing systems to more practical non-linear, computer-based methods.
With 16 years of experience and custom in-house technologies, iyuno is widely known as a high-quality technology-driven player servicing top media companies
This helped IYUNO gain traction in the market. During this period of transition, IYUNO’s software delivered about 90 percent of Korean subtitling.
Although MediaTrans received a great response from IYUNO’s clientele, the majority of IYUNO’s revenue still came from subtitling services instead of technology licensing. With no industry background or strong relationships to the media industry, IYUNO had to compete against competitors’ low prices. It seemed there was no way out of the low margin business.
In 2010, IYUNO made a bold move of moving out of Korea and setting up its first global office in Singapore. Soon after, the firm came across a renowned, Singapore-based broadcasting company that had language requirements for a newly launching regional channel that specialized in Korean dramas and variety shows. This proved to be the gateway for IYUNO to expand into Malaysia, Taiwan, and other countries across Southeast Asia. The company has grown manifold ever since. IYUNO has grown at least 50 percent every year since then.
The Transition from Offline Software to Cloud-based Subtitling Solution
While developing, fine-tuning, and customizing the software to service its clients better, IYUNO realized that offline software had drawbacks. For one thing, MediaTrans only used USB dongles. IYUNO would bring in translators, train, and give them a USB dongle. The company also faced problems hiring translators since sending large-sized video files to them was a challenge. Installing IYUNO’s offline software on the translators’ diverse computers often resulted in difficult technical issues. IYUNO first had to send them the video files via File Transfer Protocol (FTP); the video files were then downloaded and played using the software to generate subtitles. As the translators were freelancers who worked from home, communicating and following up with them was another issue. In addition, there was no control over the technical specifications, and security too remained a major roadblock.
IYUNO was in dire need of a central, cloud-based subtitling platform to store and manage all the content. In 2013, Jae Koo joined IYUNO as its CTO. That year, after numerous failures, IYUNO finally developed iMediaTrans, a cloud-based subtitling software. Hosted on various secured cloud services around the world, iMediaTrans offers a full toolset to perform subtitling. With a simple click, freelancers can start working immediately without any installation, licensing, or downloads. “We are probably the front-runners in terms of setting up a proprietary subtitling platform across the global subtitling companies,” claims Lee.
This custom software, iMediaTrans, facilitates the creation and active management of subtitling projects on web browsers anywhere in the world. The cloud-based platform enables convenient management of massive multi-language projects through a central server while synchronizing different cultures and languages with each other.
"We were probably the front-runners in terms of setting up a proprietary subtitling platform across the global subtitling companies"
Major customer segments for IYUNO include OTT operators, who flourished when people embraced internet-based services and discarded cable TVs. Initially, the US OTT service providers were aggressively expanding across the globe, but lacked the options of various localization service providers in these regions such as Asia.
“We figured out that the OTTs would probably run global operations from the US itself rather than setting up regional offices across the world. This contrasted with TV broadcasters who required regional offices to secure local advertisement and manage traditional content distributions such as satellite,” explains Lee.
Realizing this opportunity, IYUNO set up its first non- Asian office in Los Angeles, California in 2014. It secured an opportunity with a major OTT service provider who was expanding out of the US. This provider, who required massive subtitling of Asian languages, proved to be a big opportunity for IYUNO. With the help of its cloud-based platform, which offered automated quality control, centralized resource, and project management, IYUNO successfully stepped up as a global tier 1 localization service provider for the mainstream US media industry.
The differentiating factor for IYUNO was their commitment to offer high-quality services in an intelligent and efficient manner. Impressed with the company’s dedication, IYUNO won media professionals, international broadcasters, OTT service providers, and Hollywood studios as its customers.
Notable Milestones and Future Goals
From humble beginnings with DVD companies to now assisting OTT providers, IYUNO has come a long way. The company has grown nearly 100 percent each year for several years. At present, it employs 550 full-time employees across 14 different global locations in Asia, Mexico, India, Europe, and the US.
Today, IYUNO is known as a high-quality, technology-driven player specializing in languages. With 16 years of experience and custom in-house technologies, it is one of the very few providers of tier-1 localization services in Asia that meets the scale, content security, and technical standards required by today’s mainstream media companies.
Until 2018, IYUNO was a self-funded company with zero third-party investments. That changed in April this year, when SoftBank Ventures Korea invested $23.5M in IYUNO. The company looks forward to expanding its footprint in Europe and other regions across the world. Numerous acquisitions are expected to close by end of this year. IYUNO plans to capitalize on new business opportunities in more sophisticated, systematic, and productive ways.
September 21, 2018