Knowledge Base > Essential Guide to Closed Captions
Benefits of Closed Captions
Updated July 24, 2023
Closed captions, originally designed to aid the hearing-impaired, have proven to be a boon for a much wider audience. Beyond making content inclusive, closed captions have quietly become a valuable resource for opening up online video to non-native speakers, improving focus, and enriching the multimedia experience for everyone, regardless of hearing ability.
Closed captions are useful to all audiences
Closed captions are used by people with and without hearing impairments, by native and non-native speakers. Several studies have shown that the usefulness of closed captions is universal. Whereas closed captions were often non-existent before, they are now added to most online videos.
For people with hearing disabilities, the usefulness of closed captions is obvious. There is a rising trend in the focus on accessibility and inclusivity; more and more content creators are adding specific Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH). In some cases, it is even legally required. But even in the absence of SDH subtitles, ‘regular’ captions will contribute to making video content more accessible.
Making closed captions available in multiple languages is increasingly being used to broaden the audience for video content to non-native speakers. This was initially mainly the case for Video on-Demand. But with the improvement of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) systems, it has now also spread to live streaming.
But even for native speakers without hearing disorders, there are plenty of reasons why closed captions are useful, and sometimes even needed. Numerous studies have shown that most people often turn on closed captions when watching online videos. More so, in many social media and streaming platforms, closed captions are now turned on by default.
Closed captions going mainstream
50% of Americans watch content with subtitles most of the time.
62% of Americans use subtitles more on streaming services than regular TV.
57% watch content in public; 74% of Gen Z do so.
Younger generations overwhelmingly prefer to watch content with subtitles on.
* data from a survey conducted by Preply
Reasons to provide closed captions for everyone
Listed below are some of the reasons often cited in scientific studies by viewers of online video. Already in 2006, a study by the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) concluded that 80% of television viewers used closed captions for purposes unrelated to hearing loss. A 2015 study conducted by the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Group found that students without disabilities use captions almost as frequently as students with disabilities.
Make video content easier to follow
In general, closed captions make it easier to follow along with the speech. For example, it helps understanding speakers with accents, audio with background noise, or fast-spoken dialogue. They also offer clarity when it comes to names, abbreviations and technical terminology.
Many non-native speakers have English as their second language. Providing English captions may suffice to allow them to follow along with the speech.
Support viewing in sound-sensitive environments
Closed captions allow viewers to watch your videos in places where audio is unavailable. With the mobile video usage increasing more and more, this has become a very important advantage.
Viewers may be in a noisy environment, so they cannot understand the speech. Online videos are also muted by viewers to avoid disturbing others around them.
Improve language skills
Closed captions helps with language learning and literacy development for children, for example by seeing the spelling of unknown words. It also helps on-native speakers to get more in touch with a second language and overcome their uncertainties.
Help viewers maintain focus
Several studies concluded that captions help viewers to stay concentrated and comprehend more information.
For example, a study by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) concluded that 42% of students use closed captions to help maintain focus.
Increase viewer engagement
Closed captions ensure that people watch online content longer and remember more of it.
For example, a Facebook advertising study found out that captions increase the average view time by 12%. A survey published by Verizon and Publicis Media showed that captions ensure that brands are more easily remembered.
Overcome issues with audio content
Some people have audio processing disorders, other than being hard of hearing. They may have a short attention span, including but not limited to clinical conditions.
Distractions (e.g. working out, child care, phone calls) and multitasking can be temporary reasons why text is easier to understand than speech.
Closed captions are hugely beneficial for online learning
Closed captions provide cognitive reinforcement. When you read something and hear it at the same time, it helps you remember it better.
A study by Michigan State University concluded that: ‘captions are beneficial because they result in greater depth of processing by focusing attention, reinforce the acquisition of vocabulary through multiple modalities, and allow learners to determine meaning through the unpacking of language chunks.’
Other advantages of closed captions
Besides the advantages while watching video, closed captions also result in the presence of an online transcript. This allows search engines to crawl the full audio transcript of video content. This way, videos can be properly indexed, which results in better SEO. It also provides opportunities for better searchability and translatability.
Adding closed captions boosts SEO
This ensures that videos are found and watched more. For example, a study by Discovery Digital Networks found that YouTube videos with captions had 13.48% more views in the first two weeks and 7.32% more lifetime views, compared to videos without captions.
Enhancing video search
Since closed captions contain the full transcription of a video, it can provide the basis for accurate searchability of all video content.
Managing and translating videos
Using captions, a video library can be easily scanned (e.g. to use part of it in a clip) or translated into other languages.
Benefits of AI-generated closed captions
AI-generated closed captions enable instant accessibility for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. By providing live captions during a stream, individuals can follow the dialogue. This ensures they don’t miss out on important content or discussions. Real-time accessibility is particularly crucial for live events, and conferences, where immediate access to information is necessary.
AI algorithms have made significant improvements in natural language processing and speech recognition, leading to highly accurate closed captioning. AI systems continuously learn and adapt, resulting in increasingly precise transcriptions over time. This level of accuracy is great for the viewing experience for individuals who rely on closed captions. This way, everyone can enjoy interaction with live stream content.
Cost and time efficiency
Traditional methods of closed captioning involve hiring professionals to transcribe the content manually. This process can be time-consuming and costly, particularly for live events. AI-generated closed captions eliminate the need for dedicated human transcribers, reducing expenses and streamlining the captioning process. Content creators and organizations can spend their resources more efficiently while maintaining accessibility for their viewers.
AI-generated closed captions can easily be translated into multiple languages. This feature allows live streams to reach a more diverse audience, breaking down language barriers and enabling global participation. With AI technology, real-time translation of spoken language into written captions becomes a reality. Multilingual closed captions empower viewers worldwide to engage with content in their native language. This promotes understanding between different cultures and sharing knowledge.
Compliance and legal requirements
Live closed captions are essential for compliance and legal requirements because they ensure that broadcasters follow accessibility laws. These laws are in place to make sure that everyone, including people with hearing impairments, can access and understand the information presented in live streams and broadcasts. By providing live closed captions, broadcasters meet their legal obligations, which vary depending on the country or region.
Live closed captions significantly improve comprehension by presenting a visual representation of spoken words. When viewers read the captions while simultaneously listening to the audio, it helps with understanding the information. The clarity provided by live captions is especially valuable in situations with poor audio quality or background noise. This ensures that the audience can follow the content easily.