The good news is that, compared to 2016, subtitle provision has slightly improved. When considering all of the on-demand services that are in Ofcom’s remit*, the provision of subtitles rose from 38% across services in July 2017 to half (49%) of all services at the end of 2017.
What’s the difference between a platform and service?
Ofcom distinguishes between a service and a platform. The platform is the company which hosts and delivers on-demand content, whereas the service is the organisation which has editorial control over the programming. So if you’re settling down to catch up on the latest episode of Bake Off through Sky On Demand, then Sky would be the platform. The service you’d be watching is All 4 by Channel4.
For better or worse?
Accessibility varies greatly depending on the platform used to view the service, and there are only a small amount of services available with subtitles on some of the most popular platforms. Take Virgin TV as an example: only three out of 24 of services available on this platform have subtitles. A Samsung Smart TV has slightly more to offer you, with seven out of 17 of services offering subtitles. So if you’re ready to relax, put your feet up, and stick on the must-see show, you’re still likely to miss out.
Catch-up or miss out?
With on-demand TV on the rise, there’s still a long way to go to make all platforms equal. In fact, you’re better off watching the two main services, ITV Hub and All 4, on your web browser than through your smartphone, tablet, or Smart TV. If you’ve sat down to catch-up on the cobbles of Coronation Street or the latest crime scene in Unforgotten, then ITV Hub has 71% of its content subtitled on its own website. However, ITV Hub only has subtitles available on just four out of 24 other platforms. If you’re switching over the channel to All 4 to watch fan favourites like Gogglebox or Friday Night Dinner, then you’re better off viewing on your laptop, with 85% of content on the website being subtitled. If you’re watching on the go, or through your TV, then unfortunately only 13 out of 20 platforms which offer All 4 will provide you with subtitles.
Find out more about the accessibility of your provider using Ofcom’s interactive tool.
In 2017, we successfully campaigned for the Digital Economy Act (2017) to be amended, to ensure that, in the future, more services and platforms will offer subtitles. Find out what the next steps are to ensuring accessible content for all those who use subtitles.
To join us in encouraging broadcasters to provide fully accessible content, and to receive the latest updates, please sign up as a campaigner.
*There are some services that are not covered by the report, as they don’t fall into Ofcom’s remit (such as Netflix and Apple TV). BBC iPlayer is not covered either as it has different regulations.