Take 1 COO Stephen Stewart talks to Slator magazine about his new role

27th January 2020

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Stephen Stuart

Our new COO, Stephen Stewart, was recently interviewed by Slator magazine about his industry experience, his plans at Take 1 and the media localization boom.

Click here for the “People Moves” piece published by Slator and read the full Q&A below.

 

Can you share something about how you joined the language industry and how you ended up working at Take 1?

Take 1 was a supplier to me when I was VP Global Operations at BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios) and I was always impressed by how they combined a quality service with the high levels of content security demanded by the BBC.  They also had a genuine customer focus with a refreshing degree of honesty.  As a result, after leaving the BBC, I kept in touch with the team and, where appropriate, engaged them in discussions about projects I was working on.

Many of my past roles have involved transitioning businesses into the cloud and leveraging emerging Artificial Intelligence applications to bring efficiencies to media processing and workflows.  This role at Take 1 offers me the opportunity to use these learnings to help them move into the next phase of their growth, following deals with a number of new, high profile, global customers.

 

What will be your first order of business as COO? What will your first 30/60 days look like?

Being a people person – my absolute first order of business will be to get to know my team and my peers.  I will be seeking to understand how they operate and what ideas they have for the future.  Some of the best ideas come from internal teams that really understand the DNA of a business and the needs of their customers.  Take 1 isn’t any different.

As the business model evolves, especially as cloud services and AI start maturing, people’s roles will undoubtedly change.  My first order of business will be to reassure the team that any change will be an opportunity for growth and development for those with the right mindset.  We should let computers do what they are best at, and let people concentrate on what they are good at – namely spending more time talking to clients and industry colleagues and spending more time with colleagues at Take 1 to bring operations, production, technology and business development closer together so that our vision and roadmap continues to align with our customers’ ambitions.

By the end of my first 60 days, I aim to have developed a combined vision within the operation team, formalised any structural changes to support this and ensured that all of the Take 1 customers are taking full advantage of the latest releases of the Take 1 Cloud platform.

 

How many teams / staff will you manage?

Under the banner of Operations, Take 1 has Production, Product and Technology Services teams, totalling approximately 40 people across the UK, North America and South America. These teams are responsible for end-to-end client delivery, from the initial on-boarding of new customers, through to quality controlling the final deliverables.  The services these teams support range from transcription of raw footage from tv shoots, translation from virtually any language to any other language, creation of accurate ‘post production scripts’ for content owners to allow them to sell their content to broadcasters and streaming platforms and the creation of content for access services (subtitles/captions and audio descriptions.)

 

Had you interfaced with language service providers while at, for instance, the BBC? If so, what were your top pain points,and which did you feel were a bit under-addressed?

Only a small percentage of most language service providers have experience related to the media industry, so trying to identify specialists who understand the nuances and complexities of the requirements of the media industry was one pain point.

Another pain point was content security.  Many producers go to great lengths to protect their content all the way from the creation of the original script, through to the finished programme. With a number of high-profile leaks of content over the years, producers are, understandably, paranoid about their content getting ‘into the wild’ before it should.  This means that they often only release finished version of the content very close to the transmission or broadcast date, which puts pressure on language providers to turn around content very quickly, while maintaining quality levels.  This takes a lot of management overhead to ensure timely delivery and can also increase costs.

Fortunately, over the last year or so, industry organisations, such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, backed by the Digital Production Partnership, have developed rigorous certification programmes so that service providers such as Take 1 can prove that they take content security as seriously as their customers.  The move to content being stored in highly-secure datacentres, managed by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, also guarantees a higher level of security than the legacy ‘tape on a shelf’ or even the digital storage of programmes on local servers.

 

Can you discuss briefly how a metadata and transcription provider like Take 1 has benefited from the media localization boom driven by the likes of OTT media service providers Netflix and, more recently, Warner and Disney? As well as the rise of original content (e.g., YouTube, HOOQ)?

The process of preparing video content for international distribution (or localization) requires a whole new set of data and documents for each territory’s submission.  For Take1 that might mean translating transcriptions of the original programme into different languages, producing subtitles or captions and preparing timed text information, post-production (or as-broadcast) scripts, contributor release forms and all kinds of language lists for each individual territory’s version of the content.  Obviously, the increase in global content has resulted in an increased demand for localization services like those offered by Take1, but it has also highlighted major inefficiencies in the current process

One reason I joined Take 1 is because I was impressed with their transparency around these workflow challenges and their development of a customer portal that allows content owners to keep track of all their assets and to ‘build’ on and reformat them to avoid unnecessary re-working of the same content.  Customer feedback on Take 1’s cloud-based, AI enhanced platform has been amazing and has resulted in one of the world’s largest global factual content producers choosing Take 1 as their preferred supplier for these services.