Closed captions as a content delivery channel

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Sometimes I say that I’m obsessed with connecting people to content that is meaningful to them through whatever channel they prefer. There are many channels, of course: Online (desktop, mobile, tablets, RSS, email, etc.), print, word of mouth and, of course, TV. (There are others, too, I’m sure.)

As I was watching the Mike and Mike show while running on the treadmill at the gym, it hit me that closed captions are another content delivery channel. I was watching the ESPN show on mute and reading along using the captions while listening to Pandora on my iPhone. (Multi-tasking, I know.) Yes, I know captions have a more important purpose than to allow me to listen to music AND read a TV show at the same time. It’s for the hearing impaired.

According to the Media Access Group: An estimated 24 million Americans have enough of a hearing loss that they cannot fully understand the meaning of a television program. This is especially true of the elderly, the fastest growing category of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Captions enable viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing to participate with family and friends in America’s favorite pastime: watching TV. Captions can also benefit adults and children learning to read, as well as people learning English as a second language.

In addition to captions’ intended purpose I’ve noticed that others are using them, too.

  • The people at the gym – on the treadmill and also the people lifting weights near multiple monitors displaying captions.
  • People in bars with multiple TVs showing games and running captions.
  • I remember captions being on at get-togethers while in college.
  • I wonder if I should turn captions on at home when my six-year-old is playing and I’m trying to watch something … and can’t hear the program due to the noise.

While I know that I’m choosing as opposed to having to use captions just about every time I’m at the gym, it also makes me think about content delivery and preference. Options are great! While at the gym, I even go so far and skip programs that do not have captions for one reason or another and move on to ones that do. There are enough choices.