More Languages, More Viewers


TV stations that want to reach audiences that don't understand English have a new alternative to the often costly efforts needed to offer translations via secondary audio channel (SAP): a PC-based system from TranslateTV.

The system allows stations to translate audio into real-time caption information in eight languages at a fraction of the cost of hiring a translator. The captions are accessed via the second or third closed-captioning channel and are derived from the English caption information.

"Foreign speakers aren't hearing-impaired," says TranslateTV President and CEO Joel Rudich. "They just don't understand English too well. So, putting subtitles on [enables them to] see programming that they otherwise might not have wanted to [watch]."

And advertising as well. Rudich believes that the ability to draw in viewers, particularly Hispanics, whose presence in smaller markets is growing, can lead to new revenues. A revenue-generating option includes sponsorship of the subtitles, which could easily be incorporated into the captions without distracting viewers.

"For a local TV station, the cost is about $125-$200 a day," says Rudich. Total system cost for a year's use is about $40,000.

Currently, broadcasters reach non–English-speaking viewers with the use of live translations for the SAP channel. That can cost upwards of $100 an hour, a costly proposition for even large-market stations. For small- to mid-market stations, it's prohibitive.

TranslateTV went live at WNBS-TV Columbus, Ohio, a CBS affiliate, last fall. MSNBC has used the system since December.

Once a station signs on for the system, the first step is to create a customized dictionary. That process takes about a week and is the result of analyzing scripts as well as tapes of local content.