In-House vs. Professional Closed Captioning Service: Which Costs More?

February 15, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: January 4, 2018

In-House vs. Professional Closed Captioning Service: Which Costs More?

Many organizations approach video captioning from a DIY angle at first, only to discover that the cost of labor and time for transcription is not sustainable at scale.

How do you know if it’s time to outsource your video transcription and captioning needs to a professional service?

Edtech professional Korey Singleton examined the cost of in-house vs. outsourced captioning at his organization, George Mason University. Korey oversaw an in-house captioning process, followed by a hybrid model with professional outsourcing. He presented his economic analysis of both methods in the webinar In-House Captioning Workflows and Economic Analysis.

Let’s break down his results at a high level.

In-house vs. Outsourced cost comparison (FY12 George Mason University)

Honestly, if we had just gone ahead and outsourced those minutes, we would have saved close to $7,000.

Korey Singleton
George Mason University

When Korey initiated the in-house captioning program at George Mason University in FY12, they hired several grad students solely for transcription work. This made it easy for Korey to see exactly how much time and labor cost went into captioning.

(Note: in subsequent years, Korey didn’t have such precise data on in-house labor because the work was later distributed among several people).

The grad student transcriptionists climbed a steep and variable learning curve.

The average non-professional transcriptionist takes at least 4 times the duration of content to transcribe audio from scratch. Some students excelled more than others, but all of the in-house transcriptionist required a ramp-up time to get familiar with the process and editorial standards.

Orchestrating the whole captioning process internally drained the department of more resources than expected, and the in-house captioning that resulted was quite high.

In-house vs. Outsourced cost comparison (FY12 George Mason University)
Hours of Content38.9218.63
Cost/min to caption$5.87$2.94
Total Cost$13,723.45$3,286.33

In FY12, the cost-per-minute of in-house captioning was nearly double that of the professional captioning company. And because the majority of content was captioned in-house, that means a lot more was spent on captioning.

Korey admitted, “Honestly, if we had just gone ahead and outsourced those minutes, we would have saved close to $7,000.”

Outsourced Captioning Cost at Scale

You can really see cost savings with outsourcing at scale.

George Mason University increased its hours of captioned content annually as it ramped up its captioning process, and each increase in content drove down the price-per-minute.

Outsourcing at Scale: FY12-FY14 Outsourced Captioning Costs at George Mason University
Total Minutes3,4537,30916,419
Total Hours57.55121.82278.4
Total Jobs1953711034
Hours (Outsourced)18.6368.97222.55
Jobs (Outsourced)24177901
Total Cost (Outsourced)$3,286.33$11,297.00$31,379.55
Avg. Cost/Min (Outsourced)$2.94$2.73$2.35

Between FY12 and FY14, George Mason saw their captioning costs decrease from $2.94/min to $2.35/min. This is because some closed captioning vendors offer discounts for bulk orders.

Korey also saw greater efficiency in outsourcing longer content to professionals. That prevented the in-office captioners to get backed up with big projects and kept the process moving.

What Should You Do?

Estimate the time and labor cost of captioning content in-house and compare it to the price of professional closed captioning services.

Korey issued this advice for other institutes of higher ed:

If you have an institution and a culture where everybody’s going to buy in, and you have students that can do an effective job captioning and will be with you for a couple of years, then by all means, go for an in-house process.

If not, an outsourcing fits better because you don’t have the staffing or the time to actually build up some kind of model. Think about that as well.

Compare your in-house costs to professional closed captioning services: download our pricing and discounts form.

Pricing & Discounts: free download

Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.