How Many Language Companies Compete in the Transcription and Captioning Market?

How competitive is transcription and captioning

While transcription and captioning have their roots in accessibility — that is, making video and audio content accessible to deaf and hard of hearing viewers — demand for the services has grown strongly in recent years.

A rise in media streaming platforms, the proliferation of online content, new accessibility laws, and the increased use of video conferencing tools, coupled with cost reductions thanks to technological advances, mean the field is growing, with the largest market in the US.

The main players include big tech (e.g., Microsoft, Amazon, and Google), a major source of technological innovation; AI startups (e.g., Descript and Airgram), which often make speech-to-text (STT) tech available on SaaS platforms for narrow use cases; and transcription and captioning-specific agencies (e.g., Rev, Verbit, AI Media, Acolad via Ubiqus), which might market themselves as “accessibility providers” or cater to a specific niche sector.

STT tech companies, which build, customize, and deploy systems for customers, have naturally claimed a stake in the transcription and captioning space, though some also have broader AI/NLP offerings. Individual competitors differentiate themselves based on model output accuracy, language coverage, and customization options, among other factors.

Language service providers (LSPs), whose traditional translation and localization offerings could be called “adjacent” to captioning and transcription, have expanded into the space, too.

In a survey of the top-performing 57 LSPs from Slator’s Language Service Provider Index, 46% of respondents said they offer captioning, and 56% provide transcription. These include some of the biggest names in the industry, such as RWS, Lionbridge, TransPerfect, Iyuno, Acclaro, Acolad, and BLEND.

Barriers to entry into the increasingly competitive field include the up-front investment in tech-enabled workflows and in-depth knowledge of accessibility laws as they apply regionally, to different kinds of media, and across industries.

At the same time, LSPs are uniquely poised to seize some of the new opportunities presented by the growing demand for transcription and captioning. 

This could mean deepening relationships with existing media localization or language service buyers; leveraging access to multilingual supply chains; and bidding on large government or public language service contracts, which frequently require both transcription and translation.

For a more detailed look at the competition in this space, Slator’s flagship annual Language Industry Market Report for 2023 features 16 pages of Transcription and Captioning market analysis, including a one-page table listing more than 50 new use cases enabled by speech-to-tech advances.