Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Netflix adds some closed captioning to its streaming video

From NewTeeVee:

Netflix has enabled closed captions on a limited number of titles available through its Watch Instantly service, the company’s chief product officer, Neil Hunt, wrote in a blog post this morning.

Closed captioning has long been one of the most requested features for the streaming service. Hunt first addressed the issue last June in a blog post in which he described the difficulties involved with rolling out subtitles across the company’s streaming library. Until now, English subtitles were only available for foreign language films, and were “burned in” to the video, with no way of turning them off.

The rollout so far is extremely limited. Currently, subtitles are only available on about 100 out of more than 17,000 titles, and only via the desktop implementation of the Watch Instantly service, which uses the Microsoft Silverlight plugin for video delivery.

But Hunt writes that Netflix is looking to fill in the rest of its streaming library over time. It’s also working with consumer electronics manufacturers to enable subtitles through gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, HDTVs and other connected devices through which Netflix subscribers can access the Watch Instantly service. Netflix estimates that it will be available through more than 100 CE devices by the end of this year.

Netflix isn’t the only streaming video company to be working on adding captions to its videos. YouTube has been working to roll out subtitles across all its videos, announcing plans last November to begin captioning videos as they are uploaded to the service, and later, plans to automatically add captions to all videos in its library.

It’s worth noting that Google’s captions, which are based on its Google Voice voice-recognition algorithms, are not perfect — and in fact, are sometimes downright silly. While YouTube is automating the process with its own technology, Netflix is working to add SAMI subtitle tracks to its streaming videos instead.