BBC iPlayer trialling subtitles for live channels in world-first

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Monday, 1 August 2016 14:44pm

In a welcome development from the UK, the BBC has begun trialling subtitles for live channels on their iPlayer platform. This is a first for any major video on-demand service in the world, as up till now, subtitles have only been available for on-demand programs.

Image of BBC iPlayer logo

Image of BBC iPlayer logo


The head of accessibility for the BBC, Gareth Ford Williams, announced that “the BBC is already a world-leading provider of accessible services, but we know there is always more to do. We want to ensure our content and services are accessible to everyone, and this trial will give viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired, access to even more programming than ever before.”

About 20 percent of iPlayer's on-demand content is watched using subtitles, which equates to around 2 million programs per day, the BBC said. The test is currently only available on desktop and laptop computers (Mac and PC), yet will roll out to include hand-held mobile devices and tablets in a few months, followed later by connected TVs, according to a news release on the broadcaster's website.

Some U.S. analysts predict that if and when the BBC's iPlayer digital video service makes it to the U.S.A, rather than being marketed as a differently-packaged subscription service, it could have a feature that no other major provider currently has - subtitles on live-streamed content.

The move shows that it is possible to do this on a large-scale in order to make content much more accessible for more people. There is no valid reason why other online services can't provide captions like the BBC is doing right now, and obtaining a competitive advantage over those who are not.

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