Friday, March 2, 2012

Netflix and Captioning: My Initial Experiences

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to sign up for Netflix streaming service through our PlayStation 3. My mom had just let me know that they had increased their captioning and also that captioning is now available through more devices than it used to be.

I hope to write a longer post once I have used Netflix more widely, but I wanted to write about my initial first impressions.

I signed up for Netflix online. They have a 30 day free trial and after that it costs $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming. (You can stream through your computer or through your TV.) There is an additional cost if you want physical discs delivered, which I opted against.

You can queue up TV shows, movies, and documentaries through your PC or TV. In your browser, you can see if a show has captions by going to the show's page and scrolling down. Usually, under "Streaming Details," you can see if a show has subtitles. Some shows have none, some list "English," and some list both "English" and "English (CC)." I actually haven't noticed a difference between "English" and "English (CC)" but I would assume that "CC" captions sounds as well as dialogue.

While the majority of TV shows I want to watch have been captioned, I have been less lucky with movies. It seems that movies added to Netflix's library are more likely to have subtitles vs. older movies. Many documentaries are also not subtitled. I was disappointed to see many Nova/PBS documentaries I was interested in aren't subtitled. That disappointed me because PBS is usually so on-the-ball about captioning.

I did notice one odd thing about a couple of shows I wanted to watch. In both cases the first episode was not captioned but every episode after that was. Strange. (The shows were Star Trek: Voyager and Quantum Leap. Don't judge me!)

Sometimes the captions get badly corrupted. I think this is probably a problem with streaming or buffering, but sometimes it is ridiculously garbled while the picture is fine.

Another annoying thing about captioning on Netflix is that you have to set captions every time you start to watch an episode of a show or a movie. If you accidentally back out of the menu to watch the show, you have to set it again. You also have to set it for every episode of a show. It gets tedious. I wish there were a global preference to always have captions on.

Those are my thoughts so far... has anyone else had experiences with Netflix?


  1. I haven't been a Netflix customer in a long while now. But, there's a website that lists every captioned Netflix title here:

    It was built by the caption fish guys I think.


    I am curious..are all new releases being captioned now? I know that netflix has made some progress recently...but am still standing on the sidelines because netflix lost the rights to many movies (Starz studios)...and might primarily become a TV series streaming service.

    Do keep updating us if you don't mind? :-) I am stuck in a mix of Redbox, I-Tunes, and my ISP's On Demand...hard to keep my budget under $20 a month which was what it was when I had a Blockbuster Total Access membership (ended because I couldn't rent more than 11 movies a month which is less than what Redbox costs on a per movie basis).

  2. Awesome! This is something that frustrates my dad. Netflix has been making improvements, which is encouraging!

  3. I've watched streaming videos on my Wii since Netflix first offered it. At first all I could watch were foreign language films because they already had open captioning. I wasn't thrilled. I emailed Netflix several times and explained my frustrations. All I would get back was that they were working on the subtitling for their streaming service and it would be available "soon". I kept reminding myself that "soon" is a relative term. Thank goodness I'm a patient man. :|

    Well it finally happened and when it did I was overjoyed! It started out at first with just a few movies and shows. You know, the ones you don't really want to watch, but even so it was nice to have something.

    I ended up watching old (and I mean old) B&W reruns of Wagon Train! What a blast from my past!!! At least I could watch something that brought back good memories of my childhood.

    Then the floodgates opened and it almost seemed like you could get subtitling on most everything Netflix streamed. It probably seems that way to me since I used the system when there were so few.

    I've never had a problem with the subtitles as Megan mentioned however. One of the reasons is probably due to something that happened a while back where I live that might be worth mentioning.

    There was a condominium complex built quite close to my house about 5 years ago. When people started moving in the CC completely degraded to the point that you couldn't even recognize it as English. This had never been the case before.

    Now a couple months had passed and there was a lot of testing done on my part but eventually I proved to a Time Warner Cable installation technician that even though we received TV broadcasts, that the video and the audio were perfectly fine ... the signal was just weak enough that it couldn't carry the CC signal. TWC sent out a slew of trucks after the technicians visit and evidently investigated the problem because what ever they did we haven't had a single issue with the CC on TV or the subtitling on Netflix since.

    I also did some further research of my own and found that each service on your cable travels the lines independently. TV, Internet, phone, etc. and believe it or not even your CC!

    The fact that CC and subtitling aren't in demand by the majority I'm sure it travels on the back-end of the spectrum of signals. So if you're experiencing any issues one of the things you might want to check into would be signal strength of ALL your services. Hey, it's worked for me! :)

  4. Thank you, Megan. I have been curious about this. Just cancelled the "hard copy" Netflix and have been thinking about trying streaming, but have to figure out the set up.

  5. I tried Netflix streaming videos to my TV and turned out it was disaster so I returned back to hard copy DVD Netflix mail order. It is cheaper than any DVD rental after many days of research on rental cost and video streaming with closed caption. One day, video streaming with automatic closed caption will appear then I will reconsider this again.
    ALL video streaming new movies release , Closed caption is an issue on video streaming for TV except foreign movies for years.

  6. Hi Megan,
    We have had Netflix a few months now and I really like it. I'd say 90% or more of the movies I have watched had captioning.
    One thing we like about the service is that you get suggested categories of films based on your previous selections.
    I hope you will blog on this topic again after you've had Netflix awhile.

  7. Longtime Netflix user here. It is true the captioning on the streaming has improved, but there continue to be serious problems.

    *About 60% of the movies I try to watch are captioned. Almost no documentaries are captioned.

    *Captions come and go. One day something is captioned, the next day it isn't.

    *In some shows and movies it's like the captioning and dialogue have been synced by a deaf-blind monkey. Impossible to watch.

    *In select few occasions, the captions disappeared halfway into an engrossing movie.

    * Customer service is CLUELESS when it comes to captioning. They don't understand how the captions work and can't help you troubleshoot. They also can't report missing and garbled captions to the captioning team.

    * There isn't a way to have broken/missing captions fixed. You are supposedly able to report that on their website, but no report has ever resulted in repaired captions, in my experience. If the captions don't work, tough shit.

  8. sometime i gets netflix login problems


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