Amazon will begin adding closed captions on its Prime Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video streaming services this year.
The shopping giant has been criticised for not providing captions on all of its services or clearly identifying which DVDs feature them on its Lovefilm by Post.
A change.org petition which amassed over 15,000 signatures has called on Amazon to make information on subtitles and captions clearer. The petition, started last year hit the 15,000 mark after comedian Mark Thomas posted two large posters reading ‘LoveFim HateDeaf People’ on the front of Amazon’s HQ.
At some point this year Amazon will begin rolling out closed captions on Prime Instant Video, although it hasn’t said exactly when this will start happening. An Amazon spokesperson said:
“Amazon is committed to ensuring that all our customers can enjoy the full benefits of our products and services. We expect to begin rolling out closed captioned titles on Prime Instant Video movie and TV streaming service this year, and will continue to expand the range of closed captioned movies and TV shows over time.
“In addition, our DVD product detail pages provide information about the availability of closed captioned titles and subtitles where provided by studios.”
This is despite users of Amazon Instant Video in the US being able to make use of closed captions now.
But the availability of captions on streaming media has more to do with rights than technology.
While Netflix features subtitles on the vast majority of popular titles in the UK, it’s been criticised in the past over the quality of its closed captions.
Some of the more amusing Netflix subtitle fails are archived on this Tumblr (see our current favourite above), but it’s no laughing matter for the customers who regularly rely on closed captions.
A Netflix spokesperson was quoted by The Week back in January, saying: "While we don't have the rights to make edits to subs/captions we do, in fact, request redelivery of subtitles or captions when we discover errors."
A problem for all streaming companies is that while they have the rights to show content they don’t currently have the capacity to make changes to add or make changes to captions.
Amazon’s spokesperson added: “We will continue to actively pursue closed captioning from all of our studio partners.”
ATVOD, the UK body which regulates on demand services, has published best practice guidelines for subtitles. These currently state that popular content should be given priority, with niche content getting support as take-up of a service increases.