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Live captioning from the ESPN man cave

  • Many people wonder how live television programming is captioned.  Some even ask if it’s done by speech recognition since it’s often rife with funny spelling and odd mistakes (you can find some gems with a simple “caption fail” image search).  In reality, the reason why it isn’t perfect is because it is being typed live, in real-time by a human!  That’s right, a court stenographer uses a special steno machine to type up to 200 words per minute.

    ESPN recently gave a sneak peak into their Program Compliance team that oversees closed captioning for ESPN programming across their many affiliates.  They even talk through the process of how the content reaches a remote stenographer and how the captions are then sent back to ESPN and embedded into their broadcast feed. Sports content is actually some of the most difficult to caption in general because games are fast-paced, there is specialized vocabulary, and the rosters are full of unique player names.  Add the live component and you can quickly see that this is quite an operation.

    ESPN points out that there are many benefits to closed captioning in addition to serving the hearing impaired. Captions also allow viewers at gyms, bars, airports, and offices to follow along without the sound. Non-native English speakers also benefit from captions because it is easier to read the text than to follow what is being spoken.  Web captions are even more powerful than television captions since search and SEO are additional benefits for web-based content.

    Take a look at how ESPN manages hundreds of daily events in need of captioning:

3 Responses to Live captioning from the ESPN man cave

  1. Moe Strout says:

    Interested in RealTime Closed Captioning for Live Broadcasts.

    • Shannon K. Murphy says:

      Hello Moe,

      At this time we do not offer closed captioning for life broadcasts. In the meantime however, we do offer same-day turnaround for transcripts and captions which you could order for any one of the KTXD-TV episodes available on your site.

      Feel free to email with any additional questions: shannon@3playmedia.com

      Thank you!

  2. Vicki Leon says:

    Captioning is a great start on accessibility, but it is only one-half of the problem. Captioning will bring inclusion of content to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, elderly and learning English. But there is more to accessibility. Video must be video described for people who are blind or have low vision. This part of the population misses the visual content of the video that is important to understand the meaning of the video.

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