Load up Netflix on a TV screen today and you should see that a change has been applied: in the subtitle section you can now pick from several different colors and sizes to suit your preference and the display you’re watching on.
The update (via TechCrunch (opens in new tab)) gives you a choice between small, medium and large text, and four different styles: white with no background, white with a black background, yellow with a black background, and black with a white background.
To access these options, select the cog icon to the right of the current subtitle settings that appear when playback is paused. It’s a step up from the previous situation, where subtitles were only shown in one size, and in white without a background.
These options haven’t yet been switched on in every country where Netflix is available – if you’re not seeing them yet, then that might be why – but from what we can tell it appears that the roll out has already been quite extensive and swift.
Users could previously customize subtitles through the web and mobile interfaces, but these options didn’t apply to Netflix streaming through TV apps. There remain more customization options on the web and mobile, including a selection of different fonts.
Stats quoted by TechCrunch suggest that around three quarters of all streaming happens on a big screen rather than a phone or laptop, so these extra subtitle options are sure to be welcomed (and may even help Netflix increase its subscriber count).
Analysis: a good step forward
It seems strange that Netflix has taken so long to add subtitle customizations to its TV interface, considering these options are already well established if you head to the Netflix settings on the web or through the mobile apps.
For those with hearing impairments, subtitles are absolutely essential. They’re also very helpful when watching movies and shows in a foreign language of course, and for those times when everyone else at home is in bed and you need to keep the volume down.
We’d like to see the TV subtitle options reach parity with those available for Netflix on the web – specifically a wider choice of background colors and font styles. Admittedly though, simplicity is usually best when you’re operating everything with a remote control.
Overdue it may be, but this is still a good step forward for Netflix. It’s clearly a win-win: accessibility initiatives like this one and those announced last year make the service more appealing to a broader range of people.