Understanding the Diverse Needs of Subtitle Users in a Rapidly Evolving Media Landscape

Mike Armstrong, Andy Brown, Michael Crabb, Chris J. Hughes, Rhianne Jones, James Sandford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Audiences are increasingly using services, such as video on demand and the Web, to watch television programs. Broadcasters need to make subtitles available across all these new platforms. These platforms also create new design opportunities for subtitles along with the ability to customize them to an individual's needs. To explore these new opportunities for subtitles, we have begun the process of reviewing the guidance for subtitles on television and evaluating the original user research. We have found that existing guidelines have been shaped by a mixture of technical constraints, industry practice, and user research, constrained by existing technical standards. This paper provides an overview of the subtitle research at BBC R&D over the past two years. Our research is revealing significant diversity in the needs and preferences of frequent subtitle users, and points to the need for personalization in the way subtitles are displayed. We are developing a new approach to the authoring and display of subtitles that can respond to the user requirements by adjusting the subtitle layout on the client device.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7803451
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalSMPTE Motion Imaging Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Closed captions
  • diversity
  • personalization
  • responsive
  • subtitles accessibility
  • television
  • usability
  • UX
  • video
  • VoD
  • web

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Media Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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