Netflix launches in Australia with captions

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 16:44pm

The US-based video-on-demand (VOD) service Netflix launched in Australia today. The good news for Deaf and hearing impaired viewers is that virtually all the content is captioned.

Netflix logo placed inside the shape of Australia

The high level of captioning on Netflix follows two developments in the US. In 2010, legislation was passed which stipulated  that TV programs broadcast with captions must also be captioned when distributed over the internet. Shortly after this, in 2011, Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf for failing to provide captions on most of the titles on its ‘Watch Instantly’ service. An agreement was eventually reached, with Netflix committing to caption 100% of the content on its American site by the end of 2014.

While the local version of Netflix currently offers fewer titles than the American version, the company has continued its commitment to captioning, as it has in other countries where Netflix has been launched. Media Access Australia understands that some of the content on the local site may lack captions, but a survey of 50 TV series and 50 movies we carried out today found that all of them had closed captions (which can be turned on once the video has started to play). Netflix is offering a basic subscription for $8.99 per month, which allows access to standard definition versions of all its TV and movie content.

“In terms of captioning, Netflix is in stark contrast to other subscription VOD services launched here recently, such as Presto and Stan, which offer no captions at all,” said Chris Mikul, Media Access Australia’s project manager for television. “And of the five free-to-air catch-up TV services, only three of them – ABC iview, SBS On Demand and Plus7 – offer captions. We clearly need something similar to the American legislation, which ensures that a captioned program retains its captions, no matter what service you’re watching it on.”

Media Access Australia will shortly be releasing a major report on the accessibility of VOD services in Australia, with recommendations about how it can be improved. An earlier report released in 2013, Captioning on Video on Demand: It's Time for Australia to Catch Up, can be downloaded from our Video on demand page.


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