Dr Andrea Esser, Roehampton University


What happened when the UK TV series The Office was adapted for French audiences as Le Bureau? Or when Vishal Bhardwaj adapted Othello in the Bollywood musical Omkara? Or when the Tomb Raider video game had to be altered significantly for the Japanese market?

The Media Across Borders research network explores the myriad ways in which media content is translated and adapted across cultural borders. The network will bring together academic scholars and industry professionals, with the objective to deepen understanding of these processes of media content adaptation and to consider the broader significance of cultural translation within the creative industries. It will take up its work with two one-day workshops focused on the ways in which the film, television and video game industries adapt content for a variety of national contexts and media platforms. The two workshops will be followed by an international conference, aimed at widening the debate to include more media and to open up the network to a broader range of participants.

The research development network aims to model a new approach to the translation of ideas from one culture to another, defined above all in terms of language and locality (national, regional, local), but also taking into account fan cultures and different genre and media cultures with their distinct historically developed conventions. The network seeks to reveal and understand the cultural particularities of the various adaptations while simultaneously noting what is shared. Taking a holistic and anti-reductionist approach, the network will pay close attention to the diverse and complex ways in which media content travels the globe and is appropriated locally by producers, marketing teams and fan audiences. Drawing on international academic expertise, the network aims to offer a fresh perspective on contemporary digital media that looks beyond the national context to consider global popular culture and the transnational implications of media content adaptation.

Interest in media adaptation, both in the media industries and in academia, is growing: Articles in trade journals, and seminars concerned with the franchising of media content at major industry events have increased manifold in recent years. New technologies and the ongoing consolidation in the media industries have led to an enormous growth in the exchange of cultural artefacts across borders, particularly in the form of franchised media content sold for adaptation. In our digitalized, globalized world innovative and audience-drawing media productions are ‘discovered’ ever more quickly and reworked on a growing scale for worldwide distribution and consumption.

Given the central importance of the international market to the creative industries, our research has the potential to build a productive dialogue between industry and the academy. Locally adapted television formats, including shows such as Big Brother, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? and Deal or No Deal, generated global revenues of EUR 9.3bn between 2006 and 2008. More than a third of this money went to British production companies (J├Ąger and Behrens, The Frapa Report, 2009). A large scale analysis of German and US television schedules revealed that over 30% of primetime programming of the large national networks consisted of formatted programming (Esser, 2010). The mobile and home video game sectors are worth more than $100 billion (PWC, 2011), and global industry trends suggest the localisation business will continue to increase.

Building on these events, this network will evolve into an ongoing international forum for the exploration of the intricacies of content adaptation and the potential benefits and limitations it can have in both economic and cultural terms.


Dr Andrea Esser

Media Across Boarders network website

University of Roehampton project page