M&E Daily: Iyuno, SDI Execs: ABCA to Help Audio Service Professionals Overcome Challenges

By Jeff Berman M&E Daily | June 11, 2020

Audio Business Continuity Alliance (ABCA)

The new, nonprofit Audio Business Continuity Alliance (ABCA) will help audio services professionals confront current and future challenges, so that they can continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic and other industry disruptions, according to executives from leading localisation service providers Iyuno Media Group and SDI Media, who are supporting the initiative.

ABCA is being organized to establish a collaborative community of artists and companies who provide professional audio services to content creators globally, and will administer a registry and certification program for voice talent professionals looking to ensure they are equipped with the necessary capabilities to continue working, during any disruption to normal business operations.

“Certainly all of us in the industry have recognized the challenges of localization, specifically of dubbing, in a world where actors can’t come into places where people come together” as a result of the pandemic right now, Chris Carey, chief revenue officer and managing director of Americas at Iyuno Media Group, said in a May 27 presentation at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS) Live event.

Iyuno, SDI and other companies in the industry “have been struggling with how to effectively do the dubbing work that we need to do to help connect the content and people, and put content locally dubbed into consumers’ hands who, interestingly enough at this time of COVID crisis, are consuming more localized content than ever before,” he said during the presentation “Introducing the Audio Business Continuity Alliance (ABCA).”

Iyuno and various other companies had “some manner of remote acquisition of either casting tools or recording tools or other things on our roadmaps in different stages of maturity,” he pointed out.

As a result of the pandemic, it became clear they needed to “accelerate” those initiatives and “we began to build out a more complete suite of tools, including acoustic environment, which is one of the sort of problems that’s not easy to solve and is a big part of the recording business,” he said, explaining: “You’ve got to have… good sound to begin with in a room” to  be able to make a good recording and “then there’s tech and all the things that have to happen behind that…. So we began to develop a product to do an acoustic envelope and a sound booth that would be portable, easily deployed and shippable.”

Iyuno saw it not as a problem exclusive to it, but an “industry problem,” and various companies started to communicate with one another to tackle the issue, he noted.

“We have yet to actually form an entity… to establish a legal antitrust framework and all of those things that need to be done and need to be done quickly,” he told viewers. But he said it was important to “get out in front of all of you in the industry [to] have meaningful conversations about it, [so] we can begin to organize around it.” He wanted to communicate that this is the “right time and right place, and do it as quickly as possible because, as we learn every day on the news that we watch, COVID’s not resting — it’s not taking a vacation — and so we need to move quickly to try and establish a structure to do that,” he said.

Carey is “certain that if we do what we expect to do in the next couple of weeks and have an entity and our charter [is] ratified, this’ll be the fastest industry consortium creation ever,” he told viewers.

At SDI, meanwhile, “we found ourselves, right after the COVID crisis hit and studios started to shut down, having probably 15 to 20 separate conversations with our customers,” said SDI CEO Mark Howorth. Like Carey, he explained how his firm realized an industry solution was needed to overcome the challenges being faced by the talent pool.

“The reality is that we’ve always had in our contracts with customers a paragraph that talks about business continuity,” he noted. But he was quick to add: “Let’s be honest. Nobody had really contemplated something like COVID.”

Iyuno came to SDI and said an industry initiative was needed and “it made a kind of sense,” according to Howorth, explaining: “We had done a lot of work understanding the home recording capabilities of our acting network and we quickly realized after talking about it, that this isn’t about the technology…. There’s varieties of technology and the market will speak, but what we know is we have to understand the requirements and, no matter what happens, the talent has to evolve for business continuity.”

So far, “we’ve had great conversations with our customers,” he said, adding: “We’ve talked to all the major customers, who have universally expressed a need, an understanding and appreciation for what this is.” And there has been a “very positive response… from content creators, content distributors and the people on our side of the industry,” he said.

They then decided it made sense to speak with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) for it “to sort of be the third-party broker,” he said.  Comparing ABCA to the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and Trusted Partner Network (TPN), he said: “It’s the same approach of bringing people together who otherwise are in the same industry, but talking about a problem that affects us all. This is not about competition. It’s really about coming up with a best in class” solution without knowing what will happen with COVID-19 the rest of this year and next year. “That’s really what drove it,” he noted.

Howorth’s “hope” is that, “a year from now, when we say….remote recording or disaster recovery,” voice talent professionals “don’t blink their eyes a million times” and instead know what it means and know that they can continue to work, he said, adding: “We’ve got to keep the content supply chain moving, and we’ve got to make sure that the community continues to find gainful employment, even when we’re in a disaster…. My hope is that everybody can sleep a little better coming out of this.”

Noting that one thing he really liked about the plans for ABCA was the “business continuity aspect,” moderator Guy Finley, MESA’s president, said: “This may be the last COVID-type massive pandemic, but when you talk about hot spots, potentially local economies that might need to go back into self-isolation, we need to be prepared…. We have to be prepared for everything.”

Finley added that the goal of ABCA is to be “open and transparent” with the conversation and “one of the big pieces here is that this is not about any proprietary technology…. It’s meant for everybody to join” in the industry.

Click here for more details on ABCA.