Netflix Captioning Update

Netflix recently announced in their blog, An Update on Captioning for Our Members:

“In mid December, we reached our captioning goal for 2011, when more than 80% of the hours streamed in the US were of content with captions or subtitles available. Thanks to hard work from our captioning team, we made significant strides from 40% in June and 60% in September.”

Don’t be fooled by their announcement. Here’s another blog, Netflix Closed Captions and the 80-20 rule, by Gabe Gagliano who wanted to clarify Netlix’s statistics by explaining that:

“I realized Netflix was measuring the hours actually streamed by customers not the number of titles or total hours of content in the catalog. So, if I watched a captioned movie four times and another uncaptioned movie once, 80% of my viewing hours had captions available.”

Gabe added: “In fact, if you look at it by the numbers in the Netfix catalog, it turns out that 47% of the content is captioned by total running time. 55% of the content is captioned by counting the total number of TV episodes and movies. Still a long way to go.

He also explained about the 80-20 rule: “Netflix appears to subscribe to the 80-20 rule or the Pareto principle. The 80-20 rule serves businesses well most of the time. As a way to prioritize which titles to caption, focus on the most popular titles. However, judging success on accessibility shouldn’t be measured by the 80-20 rule. Accessibility needs to be 100%. While 80% of the hours streamed is a significant milestone, it’s not misson accomplished. On top of that, the long tail of content is one of Netflix’s differentiators. Ironically enough, looking at the numbers by the “hours streamed” metric is biased on some level. Some titles were watched less often since they weren’t captioned begin with.”

Netflix has again disappointed the deaf and hard of hearing people community who cares about the number of titles played, not the total hours played. Mike Chapman commented on Netflix’s blogpost by scolding them for misleading deaf customers and showing the actual number of captioned titles listed on his site.

Michael Janger also wrote his blog post, Netflix Is Tone-Deaf As It Announces 80% Captioning Achievement in response to Netflix’s news. He explains the misleading statistics by Netflix, mentions Mike Chapman’s research, and adds that Netflix has disappointed not only deaf customers, but the general public by price increases and missteps on Qwikster.