Zoo signs major BBC deal

Zoo Digital will provide the subtitling and captioning to BBC programmes, such as Wolf Hall, which are sold around the world.
Zoo Digital will provide the subtitling and captioning to BBC programmes, such as Wolf Hall, which are sold around the world.
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ZOO Digital, the firm that provides subtitling software for Hollywood blockbusters, has won a major contract with the BBC to provide a new subtitling and captioning system.

Sheffield-based Zoo said the new deal with BBC Worldwide, the wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC, will provide a pioneering new subtitling and captioning solution for its global operations.

BBC Worldwide was set up to maximise profits on the BBC’s behalf by investing in, commercialising and showcasing content from the BBC around the world.

It recently announced strong international sales of acclaimed drama Wolf Hall, starring Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII and Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell.

The series, based on the novels by Hilary Mantel, has been sold in the US, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Australia.

Zoo’s system will be used to turn subtitles and captions into various English versions, such as British, American, Australian and New Zealand, and then into multi-language ones.

Zoo’s chief executive Stuart Green said that the various English speaking territories have different spelling and grammatical conventions, hence the need for territory specific captions.

“This deal is important because working for an organisation like the BBC, which has so much content, is really challenging,” said Dr Green.

“They need to get all the current programmes and the back catalogue available.”

In a separate announcement Zoo said its annual results for the year to March 31 will be ahead of last year with the first half likely to be stronger than the second.

The group said that due to a combination of seasonality of projects in the entertainment industry and disruptions within a major customer, second half year revenues are expected to be lower than first half.

Analyst Andrew Darley at FinnCap said: “Demand for the group’s subtitling software and services is strengthening in the UK and the US, and the trading update is accompanied by a very encouraging BBC Worldwide contract win: ZOOsubs and ZOOcore will be used to provide a centralised, searchable system to manage and re-purpose subtitling and captioning assets.

“The system will also automatically localise them, initially into various English versions, to ultimately extend to become a multi-language database for all localised assets.

“Such a high-profile contract win highlights the suitability and renown of the product set.”

Zoo said it will start delivering the cloud-based media workflow management system to BBC Worldwide later this month.

All subtitles and captions shown on the BBC’s four UK terrestrial channels will be added to the system shortly after broadcast.

BBC Worldwide said it intends to deploy the system more widely over time, ultimately creating a comprehensive, multi-language database containing all localised BBC Worldwide subtitle and caption assets.

Mark Lovatt, BBC Worldwide’s global head of content services, said: “Having explored all potential providers, Zoo Digital presented the ideal solution to produce and manage our subtitle localisation.

“Zoo’s industry-leading services and innovative technology deliver a powerful, easy-to-use solution that will support our global teams in delivering accessible, localised BBC content to audiences around the world.”

Zoo Digital’s president, Gordon Doran, added: “In what is a highly competitive space with many well-established service providers, we’re delighted to have been selected by BBC Worldwide to deliver a solution to produce and manage subtitles and captions.

“Our flexible, scalable technology provides a powerful platform to support localisation operations for one of the world’s largest content distributors.”

Financial details of the contract were not disclosed.

Zoo, which has offices in Sheffield, London and Los Angeles, said it will issue a pre-close trading update in April.

The firm reported a 47 per cent leap in revenue in the six months to September as demand for its cloud-based subtitling service increases. Sales rose to £4.4m in the first half of the year.