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Understanding the diverse needs of subtitle users in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

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


Mike Armstrong

Andy Brown

Michael Crabb

Chris J. Hughes

Rhianne Jones

James Sandford


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.


ARMSTRONG, M., BROWN, A., CRABB, M., HUGHES, C., JONES, R. and SANDFORD, J. 2016. Understanding the diverse needs of subtitle users in a rapidly evolving media landscape. SMPTE motion imaging journal [online], 125(9), pages 33-41. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2016
Online Publication Date Dec 31, 2016
Publication Date Dec 31, 2016
Deposit Date Jun 9, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 9, 2017
Journal SMPTE motion imaging journal
Print ISSN 1545-0279
Electronic ISSN 2160-2492
Publisher SMPTE: Society for Motion Picture Television
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 125
Issue 9
Pages 33-41
Keywords Closed captions; Subtitles accessibility; Usability; UX; Television; Web; VoD; Video; Personalisation; Responsive; Diversity
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