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Global Media . The problem of cultural differences. Globalization is another major strategy employed by media giants for the purpose of growth BMG Sony AOL Disney Viacom % foreign 64 67 26 21 21 Revenue No. Countries 28 20 22 20 17 Entered as an Acquirer Economy of scale

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The problem of cultural differences l.jpg
The problem of cultural differences

  • Globalization is another major strategy employed by media giants for the purpose of growth

    BMG Sony AOL Disney Viacom

    % foreign 64 67 26 21 21

    Revenue

    No. Countries 28 20 22 20 17

    Entered as an

    Acquirer

  • Economy of scale

    • Public goods

    • First-copy cost


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The problem of cultural differences

  • By the mid 1990s, it has become clear that local audiences prefer local television over international television, if the difference in quality is not too huge

    • “Cultural discount”

  • Throughout the 1980s, media researchers have also conducted a lot of “reception studies” showing how media products are understood in a localized manner


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The problem of cultural differences

  • Three strategies to deal with culture

    • Universalization or deculturation

    • Localization

    • Transculturation


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Universalization

  • Cultural specificity of the product

    • Certain media products move across cultural boundaries more easily

    • Certain media products need localization to a larger extent

    • The level of cultural discount varies according to the characteristics of the media products


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Universalization

  • Examining the box offices of Hollywood movies in Hong Kong

    • Q: Do movies of certain genres exhibit a higher degree of cultural discount than movies of other genres? If yes, which genres suffer more from the problem of cultural discount?


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Universalization

  • Data

    • Hong Kong box office: Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA)

      • Top 100 list

      • N = 580

    • US box office: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/

    • Movie genres: www.imdb.com

  • Two concerns

    • Box office ratio: the question of relative cultural discount

    • Box office correlation: the question of predictability and degree of local reception


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Universalization

  • Implications of the findings

    • Actions and violence are often regarded as having “universal appeal,” but from the Hong Kong data, science fiction seems to be the most “universal” movie genre

    • Comedy seems to be the opposition – the most parochial genre

    • Hollywood actions and thrillers suffer less from cultural discount, but their popularity are not more or less predictable

    • Hollywood horror and romance do not have advantages in cultural discount, but they have advantages in predictability


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Universalization

  • It makes more economic sense to produce movies of the more universal genres if the concern is to sell the movies to the globe

    • Produce more science fictions, actions and thrillers?

    • Does genre really matter?

      • Example 1.1 vs. 1.2 vs. 1.3 vs. 1.4

  • Culturally universal vs. culturally specific references


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Localization

  • Another method adopted by media producers is to localize their products

    • E.g., Hong Kong/Asia versions of magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Times, etc.

    • E.g., localized programming of international television

  • Glocalization: To see globalization and localization as two sides of the same coin

  • Localization of content, however, involves cost and thus runs counter to the idea of economy of scale


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Localization

  • Standardization vs. differentiation

    • Whether to offer standardized products to different markets or to differentiate the products according to the needs of the local markets

    • A number of distinctions

      • Standardized product vs. standardized marketing:

        • The same product can be marketed differently in different countries

          • Example: 2.1 vs. 2.2 vs. 2.3

      • Level and extent of differentiation

        • National or Regional

        • E.g., movies – adding subtitles, dubbing, changing the ending, etc.

        • E.g., magazines – translation or original content


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Localization

  • Differentiation involves cost, but cost can be reduced by standardizing the differentiation

    • E.g., Disney’s dubbing practices are consistent in all the countries where it operates (ex.3.1)

    • Localization follows a formula

    • An executive explains: “every voice that we dub in animation has to be approved by someone who sits in L.A. It has to be identical……we cannot record at all without having an exact match. Perfect example is Robin Williams. We had to find him in Tamil, Telegu, and Hindi.”

    • Variation is allowed when direct translation is very difficult, such as in the case of humor


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Localization

  • The question is whether to differentiate, how to differentiate, and differentiate to what extent

  • Factors affecting decision on differentiation

    • Nature of the product

      • Durable vs. non-durable goods, in other words, hardware vs. software

        • Software is supposedly more culturally specific

      • Possibilities of differentiation

        • Localizing a magazine is very different from localizing a movie

        • Whether the product allows differentiation at a relatively low cost

        • Whether a global brand name and image can be maintained after differentiation, e.g., The Weakest Link


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Localization

  • Factors affecting decision on differentiation

    • Differences in culture

      • The regional movie market in East Asia

    • Differences in legal and political environment

    • Market position

      • Presence of local competition

      • Presence of international competition

      • The target market/audience


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Global news channel as an example

  • Global news channel as an example: BBC World and CNNI

    Factors Attribute Implication

    Durable or non-durable Non-durable Should differentiate

    Possibilities of differ. High Should differentiate

    Cultural specificity High Should differentiate

    Cost involved in differ. Medium to high Should not differentiate

    Cultural differences Large Should differentiate

    Difference in law/politics Large Should differentiate

    Local competition Strong Should differentiate from pure

    localism

    International comp. Moderate Should differentiate

    Target market Middle class Should differentiate from pure

    localism


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Global news channel as an example

  • The above factors affect global news channel in general

    • Organizational factors affect whether and how each organization differentiate their products

  • A comparison between CNNI and BBC World in Asia (Shrikhande, 1998)

    • CNNI gained prominence in Asia during the Gulf War

    • BBC World entered Asia in 1991

    • Increasing competition: TVBS, STAR TV, CNBC, Bloomberg news


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Global news channel as an example

  • Finding 1: The impact of increasing competition on financial commitment

    • CNNI invested more and more as competition increased

    • The main role of BBC World was to supplement the income of its parent corporation, so it was limited in its ability to commit resources to its operations


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Global news channel as an example

  • Finding 2: The importance of strategic alliance, especially with distributors and governments

    • In the international arena, media corporations need to deal with a third market – the distribution market

    • Strategic alliance with local distributors is very important

    • CNNI was very aggressive in forming alliances in local market

    • BBC World was less aggressive and also less successful in negotiating alliances because

      • Of its own strategic concerns

      • Of its unwillingness to compromise with political power


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Global news channel as an example

  • Finding 3: Increasing competition and product differentiation (or localization)

    • BBC World has been less aggressive in regionalizing the content, except for India

      • Historical reasons

      • Cost concerns


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Global news channel as an example

  • Performance of the two channels

    • Audience figure estimation

      • A “Pan-Asia cross media” survey in 1997 found that, in six Asian cities (HK, Taipei, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur), 32% of business decision makers and 24% of affluent viewers chose CNNI as their favorite satellite channel, the corresponding figures are 7% and 6% for BBC World

      • The same survey in 1998, with Singapore added, found that 24% of affluent viewers chose CNNI and 6.5% chose BBC World

      • Other similar surveys also showed that CNNI was watched to a larger extent by viewers in Asia in general


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Global news channel as an example

  • By 1997, CNNI announced that it was profitable in Asia, but BBC World could not break even in 1999

    • An executive of BBC World: “The premise was that there would be this large group of people described as the Asian middle class, leading certain lifestyles, who would become consumers…this isn’t true except in one or two markets like Hong Kong or Singapore”


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Transculturation

  • Transculturation: a process through one culture reconfigures another for its own purpose

    • Another method global media conglomerates use to broaden the appeal of their contents

    • Often resulting in a synthesis of different cultures

    • Cultural appropriation in Hollywood movies

    • Examples: 4.1

  • The case of Disney’s Mulan


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Transculturation

  • Location of animation in Disney

    • Since 1992, six of the eight top-selling videos in the US were Disney videos

    • Mulan is Disney’s 36th animated feature, and the first time Disney used an Asian story

    • Mulan’s co-director Tony Bancroft: Disney has to find “new and interesting characters” from different “locales” and “cultures” so that they “don’t all end up similar”…..it just “does not work to go to the same provincial town in Europe and see some classic tale being spun”

    • Use of foreign stories

      • Add varieties to Disney production

      • Reduces risks because the stories have stood the tests of their own culture


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Transculturation

  • The success of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast made Disney willing to take a risk in the early 1990s

  • Robert San Souci, a children’s book author and a Disney consultant, suggested that the Ballad of Mulan may make a good movie

  • The Disney formula

    • Basic elements of Disney movies: good prevailing over evil, emotional, catchy songs, cute animal sidekicks for comic relief, young romance, funny in-jokes, an assorted supporting cast with a wide range of personalities, and character voices performed by film stars

    • The cricket and the dragon in Mulan


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    Transculturation

    • Roy Disney, head of the animation department:

      • “Why make an animated movie without the fantasy characters? Give us the cricket. Kids really enjoy it.”

      • “Mulan is a nice story, but where are the great Chinese dragons and folklore and mythical creatures? When you think of China, one of the first things you think about are those hazy mountains and dragons everywhere.”

    • There are deviations from the traditional formula, though

      • The insignificance of romance in Mulan

      • The production team originally tried to fit Mulan into the formula of “beautiful rebel seeks love,” but the character was deemed to be “too angry, too flirtatious, and much too Western……weakening what Mulan was all about”


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    Transculturation

    • Americanization and universalization

      • Filial piety vs. reciprocal love

      • Dean DeBlois, Mulan’s character designer:

        • “I think the pivotal relationship of the movie evolved out of the notion that we were dealing with a foreign ideal, doing something purely out of honor, a duty that you’re born to uphold and therefore do without question. Honor is a pretty universal concept, but to label it as honor and not give a specific example of why a person would want to live up to that – we found ourselves tripping over it.”

        • The producers think that acting out of obligation is not convincing

        • The movie attempted to solve the problem by emphasizing mutual love between the father and the daughter


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    Transculturation

    • The individualistic and feminist touch

      • Peter Schneider, Disney Feature Animation President: “Mulan is a very intimate, personal story about a loyal and brave girl who’s going to find herself”

      • Barry Cook, co-director of the movie: “Mulan is not only endearing, she’s resourceful and heroic and she doesn’t need a man. I think she celebrates the importance of an individual. She shows what a difference one person can make.”


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    Transculturation

    • Decontextualization and recontextualization

      • A story has to be essentialized, stripping away its context and identifying its core elements

      • Then the story is recontextualized

      • How cultural icons such as the Great Wall, willow trees, pavilions, Buddha caves, and Tiananmen Square are used in the movie

      • Another method of contextualization is to develop a set of characters with clear personalities so that they would interact with each other in the movie as if they are living out a life of their own


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    Transculturation

    • Transfiguration

      • The change in cultural forms – from a poem to a movie

      • The lack of details in the original poem allows room for imagination

      • Animated features are freed from the expectation that a movie should represent the reality in some way

      • A movie, compared with a television drama series, is much shorter – it may become a reason for not being true to the original story


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    Transculturation

    • Cross-cultural referencing

      • How to prevent the backlash from the other cultures

        • Arab-Americans complained about the lyrics of Aladin song

        • Native Americans complained about Pocahontas being too sexualized

        • Blacks complained about the interracial makeup of voice talent in The Lion King

      • Disney hired Asians and Asian Americans

        • Chen-yi Chang, an artist from Taiwan, was hired to oversee and design the characters of Mulan

        • Chinese American scriptwriter Rita Hsian helped shape the story and dialogue


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    Transculturation

    • Disclaimer

      • Tony Bancroft, co-director: “We knew we had to respect the material. This is a beloved story to the Chinese people. We also knew that we weren’t going to make a Chinese picture. We couldn’t. We’re not Chinese. We have a different sensibility, a different storytelling style.”

      • The basic principle is to include enough foreign elements to convey a unique experience, but not so much as to send people away


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    Transculturation

    • Marketing and promotion

      • Airing TV ads aimed at children of different gender

        • Ads aired during shows with big audience of boys feature wars and actions

        • Ads aired during shows with big audience of girls feature the father-daughter scenes

      • Localized promotion campaign in Asia and other places


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    Other thoughts and issues

    • What about a Chinese global media?

      • 5.1, or 5.2, or 5.3, or 5.4, or 5.5?


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