Subtitles used to be a dealbreaker for many Americans considering watching foreign films. Times have changed. Not only are Americans increasingly open to watching TV series and movies in their non-native language, but many video platforms’ default settings turn off the audio. In fact, as Happy Scribe CEO André Bastié told SlatorPod in January 2023, 92% of viewers now watch videos with subtitles.
How did we get here? Until recently, the main primary driver for subtitles and captions (i.e., in-language subtitles) was compliance with regulatory requirements for accessibility.
Fast forward and new accessibility laws, with a focus on certain sectors, such as media and entertainment, education, and public institutions, have forced buyers to take subtitling and captioning seriously. Not doing so would exclude deaf, hard-of-hearing, and non-native speakers from a buyer’s content.
Improvements in speech-to-text (STT) and automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology have also spurred interest in captions and subtitles. As the cost of these tools decreases, buyers are more willing to explore new use cases — hence the proliferation of captions and subtitles on videos on a variety of platforms, establishing a new standard for the next generation of viewers.
While all verticals have a vested interest in subtitling and captioning, the main buyer of these services is without a doubt the media vertical. (Dubbing and voiceover are also popular among media clients expanding into new international markets.) Buyers in this space include TV producers, broadcasters, distributors, film studios, and over-the-top online subscription platforms.
Media localization remained strong in 2022 with a growth rate of 11%, representing the biggest growth contributor in 2022 and accounting for USD 2.97bn in buyer spending.
Beyond media, businesses have also shown a greater understanding of the benefits of incorporating captions and subtitles into their videos, including more and better user engagement, plus more leads, sales, and new customers.
For training and education, which increasingly use videos to deliver training, especially for online programs, e-learning, and hybrid modules, captions and subtitles can make material more engaging and comprehensible.