No Closed Captioning for On Demand Movies

Closed Captioning
Closed Captioning

Netflix, Starz, and Blockbuster On Demand all offer movies and TV episodes that you can “watch instantly” by hooking your television up to the internet using a specified device.  While these companies have made movies more accessible to a larger audience, none of them currently provide Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired on their streaming movies and TV episodes.

When researching this topic, I came across comments from several uninformed individuals who didn’t see why this was important.  According to the Deafness Research Foundation,

Approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.

That’s a pretty significant audience!

A representative from Netflix blogged in June that Closed Captioning is in the works for their streaming videos, but would probably not be available until at least 2010.  A Comcast representative recently replied to a frustrated customer with a link to the FCC’s stance on Closed Captioning.  According to her, all video content is supposed to be captioned after January 2006 unless it contains specific exceptions.

These exceptions that allow companies like Netflix to be exempt from providing Closed Captioning include late night programs, public service announcements lasting less than 10 minutes, local educational programs, and

Any video programming or video programming provider for which the Commission has determined that a requirement for closed captioning imposes an undue burden.

Child watching TV
Child watching TV

So what options exist for the hearing impaired?  Hulu, Youtube, and HBO On Demand all offer Closed Captioning for streaming movies and TV episodes.  You can also gather support on this issue by visiting the Facebook group Netflix Watch-Instantly Needs Closed Captions! What other websites have you come across with accessibility positives or negatives?


  1. I stumbled upon this by accident while researching the very question you posed. I am a hard of hearing person whom has been dealing with this problem for a long time now.

    Recently, my roommate had an issue with her tv and had to asked the cable man to come out and help with the TV. He pointed out a way to turn on the closed captions, something I was never able to do on her TV because of her cable programs.

    We were excited about ordering Netflix because that meant that I would be able to watch movies with her, TV shows that I was not able to watch because of the lack of closed captions. Only to realize, Netflix didn’t provide that on their boxes. So once again, my hopes were shattered because the technology hadn’t been included in this new format. So once again, I was forced back to Hulu to wait an extra 3 days after they put it on there just to wait for the closed captions to show up on their networks.

    Thank you for taking the time to post this and making the awareness out there.

  2. Mandy,

    Thank you for your insightful comment. We will continue to seek out options for captioned movies as well as look for updates on the matter. In the meantime, I hope we can spread awareness together and continue to fight for accessibility.

  3. Netflix captions about 30% of streaming now, note, you need to have something that can get the subtitles, PS3, Wii, Etc. Select, Audio menu & turn them on …… Try Parking Wars, it’s subbed.

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