Closed Captions: A Brief History

Closed captions a history

What do the red button, teletext page 888 and Netflix all have in common? Well, if you’re old enough, you’ve probably used all three to access closed captions, or subtitles as they are more commonly known in the UK.

Whether it’s to understand songs during the Eurovision Song Contest or catch up with news whilst at the gym, these days almost everyone finds themselves using closed captions at some point or another.  So much so, in fact, that it’s easy to forget they were first introduced for more important reasons than helping us to understand how Austria’s 2012 Eurovision entry Woki mit deim Popo was about wiggling your bum!


History of Closed Captions

Closed captions were first broadcast back in 1973, but before they were closed captions, they were open, and debuted on an episode of The French Chef with Julia Child one year earlier. The difference between the two was simply in the technology: whereas open captions appeared on all broadcasts, closed captions had to be enabled by the user.  In 1973 that meant installing a box in your TV, but today it simply requires a click of a button, and it’s that same ease-of-access which has resulted in viewers without any hearing impairments making up a whopping 80% of all subtitle users.


Benefits of Closed Captions

In today’s technological world closed captions have moved beyond their original function as a tool for accessibility.  According to a recent study of online video viewership 85% of videos are now watched without the sound on and, even with the sound on, English speakers only make up a quarter of that audience. Indeed, language learning is another key reason for the rise in closed caption usage. A study from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics confirmed that watching a film with subtitles on can significantly improve linguistic study.


Viewers aren’t the only ones to benefit here however; implementing closed captions on videos can also greatly improve their social reach.  According to Instapage, videos on Facebook alone were shared over 15% more when they were captioned, whilst call-to-action click-throughs increased by over a quarter.  Likewise, viewers are likely to watch 25% more of videos when subtitles are used.


Today closed captions have moved beyond their original remit to the benefit of both viewer and creator and are an easy way to open up your content to new audiences. They may be closed, but they open up a whole world of opportunity.


Find out more about the closed captioning services Take Note provides here.


Written by Transcriber Lydia


Take Note

Take Note is a UK-based transcription service with world-class customer support alongside the highest standards of security and ethics. We deliver a comprehensive range of transcription services including Audio and Video Transcription, Video Captions and On-Site Note Taking.