Load up Netflix on a TV screen today and you should see a change applied: the subtitles section now lets you choose from a variety of colors and sizes to suit your preference and the screen you’re watching.
The update (via TechCrunch (opens in new tab)) gives you the 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 gear icon to the right of the current subtitle settings that appear when playback is paused. It is a step up from the previous situation, where subtitles were only shown in one format, and in white with no background.
These options aren’t yet enabled in every country where Netflix is available – if you don’t see them yet, that could be why – but from what we can tell, it looks like the rollout is already quite extensive and fast.
Users were previously able to adjust subtitles through the web and mobile interfaces, but these options did not apply to Netflix streaming through TV apps. More customization options remain on web and mobile, including a selection of different fonts.
Statistics quoted by TechCrunch suggest that about three-quarters of all streaming takes place on a big screen rather than a phone or laptop, so these additional captioning options will certainly be welcome (and may even help Netflix increase its subscriber base).
Analysis: a good step forward
It seems strange that Netflix has taken so long to add subtitle customizations to its TV interface, as these options are already well established when you go to the Netflix settings on the web or through the mobile apps.
Subtitles are absolutely necessary for the hearing impaired. Of course, they’re also very useful for watching movies and shows in a foreign language, and for those times when everyone’s in bed at home and you need to keep the volume down.
We’d like to see subtitle options for TV equal to those for Netflix on the web, especially a wider choice of background colors and font styles. Admittedly, simplicity is usually best when you control everything with a remote.
It may be too late, but this is still a good step forward for Netflix. It’s clearly a win-win: accessibility initiatives like this one and the one announced last year make the service more appealing to a wider audience.