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Bonus Episode: Becoming the New Market Leader with Chris Antunes and Josh Miller

June 3, 2022


Welcome to 3Play Media’s Allied Podcast, a show on all things accessibility. This week, we’re excited to share an exclusive bonus episode with 3Play Media co-founders and co-CEOs Josh Miller and Chris Antunes. Chris and Josh met at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where they launched 3Play Media in 2007.

In 2022, 3Play serves more than 10,000 customers across multiple industries, helping them increase the value of their online video by making it accessible, usable, searchable, and SEO-friendly.

In this conversation, which was recorded live at our recent ACCESS conference in March 2022, Josh and Chris outline their vision for 3Play’s recent acquisition of Captionmax and National Captioning Canada. These two companies add a complementary suite of services to the 3Play Media family, cementing 3Play Media’s position as the premier media accessibility provider in North America.

Check out this episode on any of these platforms:

Want to get in touch? Email us at Allied@3playmedia.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Episode transcript

ELISA LEWIS: Welcome to Allied, the podcast for everything you need to know about web and video accessibility. I’m your host, Elisa Lewis. And I sit down with an accessibility expert each month to learn about their work. Every episode has a transcript published with it, which can be viewed by accessing the episode on the 3Play Media website.

If you like what you hear on Allied, please subscribe or leave a review. Allied is brought to you by 3Play Media, your video accessibility partner. Visit us at www.3playmedia.com to learn why thousands of customers trust us to make their video and media accessible.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

This week, we’re excited to share an exclusive bonus episode with 3Play Media co-founders and co-CEOs Josh Miller and Chris Antunes. Chris and Josh met at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where they launched 3Play Media in 2007. In 2022, 3Play serves more than 10,000 customers across multiple industries, helping them increase the value of their online video and media by making it accessible, usable, searchable, and SEO-friendly.

In this conversation, which was recorded live at our recent ACCESS conference in March 2022, Josh and Chris outlined their vision for 3Play’s recent acquisition of Captionmax and National Captioning Canada. These two companies add a complementary suite of services to the 3Play Media family, cementing 3Play Media’s position as a premier media accessibility provider in North America. We’re thrilled to share more on Allied about the future of 3Play as the new market leader.

And with that, welcome, Josh and Chris. Thank you both for being here today.

JOSH MILLER: Good to be here.

CHRIS ANTUNES: Thank you.

ELISA LEWIS: So to start off, I’d love to find out, how did 3Play get started? Can you give the audience a little bit of background? How did you get into the industry? And what problems were you trying to solve when starting 3Play Media?

CHRIS ANTUNES: Absolutely. Josh and I are going to do our best here not to jump over one another and trade back and forth sort of organically. But I’ll start here.

So we founded 3Play with two other co-founders, man, about 14 years ago now, while we were at business school at MIT. There was a group at MIT called MIT OpenCourseWare, or OCW, a predecessor to groups like edX and Coursera and Udacity that came later. But OCW was focused on publishing hundreds of hours of engineering lectures at MIT online for free. And part of their funding, their private funding, required that all of those videos be accessible.

So they weren’t setting out to caption all of those videos because of a legal action or for a compliance reason. Really, their funding required it. And they went out to market and realized that traditional closed-captioning was pretty expensive and really didn’t accommodate that sort of scale. And we were there, and one of our co-founders had worked at OCW before and were presented with this problem.

And so we worked with a group at– or an advisor at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab– CSAIL– at MIT to dig into this problem. And I’d say– irrational exuberance of youth, we thought that ASR, speech recognition, might be able to solve this entirely and by the end of the day we would have a solution. And it turns out that speech recognition alone didn’t work then and still doesn’t work today. And there’s a whole other hour-long conversation or more about why that’s true. But it does make the process dramatically faster. And that sort of key ingredient is at the center of the 3Play process still today.

In addition to the technology challenge, I think right from that first interaction with MIT, we realized that video accessibility is just one small part of the broader video production supply chain or process and one small part of a broader corporate accessibility strategy. And while compliance may be a motivator, fundamentally, we had to deliver a high-quality, reliable, scalable service that was easy to use to really lead to widespread adoption.

And we set out in our corner of the accessibility universe to deliver that peace of mind and to innovate, to make it as simple, and really systematically to turn “nos” or “maybe not yet” or “when budget will allow” into “yeses” consistently.

And fast-forwarding to today, I think we all know here, it’s night and day how the market has changed, how the landscape has changed in terms of what we see in terms of the buy-in experience around accessibility and the adoption around media accessibility generally, fueled by a whole number of things– certainly, some high-profile lawsuits, massive corporate initiatives, heightened awareness around inclusion, and universal design as a product-first concept, and obviously even by a global pandemic that created whole new industries and really forced all of us to innovate urgently and accelerated roadmaps around remote hybrid virtualization overnight.

All of that has resulted in a place now where it’s surprising, and honestly even a little disappointing, when you see a video online that doesn’t have captions. And from our perspective, even audio description, which was frankly pretty esoteric a decade ago, is becoming more and more mainstream, which really just feels great to see.

All that said, our focus for the first decade-plus of the company was in the recorded captioning space. And I know a lot of what we want to talk about today is focused around live captioning and what the combination of 3Play with Captionmax, NCC will bring. But that was the 14 years’ worth of history compacted in three or four minutes.

JOSH MILLER: The other part that I think is worth noting is this focus on the streaming world and web video to start as opposed to broadcast or live. And at that time, we were really early to the streaming video market, and especially accessibility in streaming video. But we were really, really focused on this idea that video accessibility, and captioning in particular at the time, wasn’t all about a cost item. It wasn’t all about doing something just for compliance. And it was actually something that made video better.

And further, there are a whole lot of reasons why we would get excited about it. It could be from video search or subtitling or navigation. There are a whole bunch of reasons that we started to fixate on to try to educate the market around why this is a good idea and not just, this is the right thing to do– which it absolutely is– but this is actually going to help you engage with your viewers more.

And what’s exciting to see now is how much it is truly expected by viewers. There is an expectation that captions are available and, depending on the content, maybe even subtitles as well. So that was something that was very real for us in the beginning is this lack of awareness and lack of understanding or why this was a good idea. And we spent a lot of time trying to figure out, how do we educate the market and be a trusted resource, not just a service provider?

CHRIS ANTUNES: I think that– just to build on that a little bit more– I do think entering a market early can feel challenging at the time because people might not be ready to buy or adopt. But it really seeps into the DNA of a company. And like Josh said, it forced us to innovate, to become subject matter experts ourselves, and to evangelize and really get to know every aspect of the market, both our customers’ needs, the sort of end user needs, et cetera. And I think you’ll see that with every interaction with 3Play. The 3Play team today is really that core DNA.

ELISA LEWIS: So you touched on the focus formerly being on recorded captioning, and you mentioned moving into live. Live captioning has been required for years, particularly in the broadcast space. Why hasn’t 3Play pursued it in a meaningful way before? And what’s changed now?

JOSH MILLER: Yeah, that’s a good question, Elisa. There’s an argument that the market was there. We should have gone after that one to start. We’re very aware that live captioning has been around. We’ve been monitoring it for a very long time since we got started. We evaluated it even when we got started as to whether it was worth trying to get into.

Part of why we didn’t was that it was crowded and that there were established players doing a good job. And the market wasn’t in a place where another provider or vendor made sense. And so when we thought about it, when we enter a market, we want to be sure that we can differentiate. And it wasn’t clear that we were really going to be able to differentiate and even try to win the market. It didn’t make sense then.

Throughout the years, we’ve certainly gotten requests and demand from customers for live captioning– not a surprise there. And we even explored solving for live captioning for our customers through partnerships.

That, unfortunately, proved to be extremely challenging really because it didn’t quite align with the way we’ve built ourselves and being very application-focused and really trying to make this solution or service feel a lot more like a web app. And so for a lot of the reasons we’ll get into why we are getting into live now, it didn’t make sense because it’s just too complicated to partner with an existing provider.

But over the last few years, what we’ve seen with COVID and certainly being remote, every industry in some way has changed. Whether it be the enterprise or events, things are very different now than they were before. The need for live video accessibility has been accelerated tremendously.

And then even the traditional media players are finding ways to bring content online in a streaming, live environment as well. So the demand for live has just really grown exponentially in a way that presents a new challenge that we are really excited to dive into.

ELISA LEWIS: So that’s a great segue. Why is 3Play now specifically positioned to pursue live captioning in a really compelling way?

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, there’s a lot here. I’ll build off, again, some of the stuff that Josh just covered, which is live’s been around for a long time, right, in broadcasts for years and years and years. We’ve been very aware of the market. I think 3Play, from a product perspective and a technology perspective, we’ve always focused on only building new products or offering new services where we think we can truly differentiate, really innovate, and really lead.

And to be frank, for a long while, we didn’t see that in live. We didn’t just want to be another offering that was doing something largely the same way. But I think as more of our customers in the web-streaming space started to get exposed rapidly to the need for live captioning through what happened over the last few years, we heard the same things again and again– the same themes, the same customer needs.

Scheduling live events can be complicated, manual, challenging– managing connection endpoints or inviting captioners into events or scheduling days, weeks, or even months in advance to make sure you get a captioning resource. 3Play has a web app– simple, ordering system, schedule management system. Ultimately, it can be integrated with all the platforms out there, just like our recorded solution today.

We heard captioners sometimes maybe don’t show up for an event. Or maybe they leave early because a game goes into extra innings and they have to go caption another event. Or maybe they get disconnected for five minutes. Or, who knows, maybe they need a bio break– it’s a four-hour event.

Well, 3Play has a solution, ASR failover. So we already are fluent in ASR technology, and we could very easily have an automated captioning track running in parallel. So if for any reason the captioner doesn’t show up for a portion of an event, or an entire event, you could get ASR automatically as a backup.

Inconsistent end user experience. We’ve heard again and again, sometimes we have to use second screens. So send the audience that needs captions to an entirely different location to view the event, and that’s not equal, certainly. And as video platforms continue to add more native API support, just like with the recorded solution we offer, we’ll integrate with them. And then the captions can be native in the platform and accessible across all devices. So that was exciting.

Capacity. There’s so much content streaming live now. And frankly, there are just not enough experts out there to handle it all. Live captioning is hard. And today, to be a live captioner requires specialized training and specialized tools.

Well, on the 3Play side, on the recorded side, we’ve become expert at teaching people to become experts in a task using simple-to-understand tools at scale. Thousands and thousands of people have been onboarded onto our marketplace to do just that, so we saw an opportunity.

I think that when customer needs start lining up so directly and so clearly with proven capabilities that 3Play has today, problems we know how to solve or we’ve solved already just in a different format, we start to get really excited. And that started to happen with live a year and a half or two years ago.

And I think what we started to realize is that we could build a new in kind product and service that really could dramatically improve the live captioning market for the better. And we got to work building it.

JOSH MILLER: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting, why not go into live before and why now? Everything we’ve done, everything we’ve learned in the recorded space has actually positioned us really well to go after this problem. Because as Chris said, this is hard. Live– it’d be silly to assume that this is going to be a cakewalk, and we can just figure it out and turn a switch and we’ve got a new product.

There’s a different level of sensitivity, the stakes are higher when it’s a live event. You can’t stop and fix something and go back and do it again. It’s live. It is happening one time, and that is what everyone is experiencing, and you better get it right.

So I think part of why we even didn’t go into it before is there’s a certain level of hubris to say, I can take over your live event, having done nothing else before. But now that we have the experience in captioning, we understand the market better and better, and with all of these capabilities that are so similar to what we’ve tried to do in the recorded space, we feel very well-positioned and, as Chris said, excited to tackle these problems.

And that’s what keeps us going, is being able to tackle interesting challenges that can improve video producers’ lives, viewers’ lives. And this is where it gets really interesting is that we can bring a product to market that can help really solve a real challenge in the amount of live content that’s out there.

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, and anyone who wants to go deeper on this topic around capacity or the evolution of the live captioning market generally– shameless plug for the Allied podcast that Elisa also hosts here– but Jill Brooks, who was formerly president/COO of the National Captioning Institute and is onboard now at 3Play helping us build our new live captioning solution, goes into this on an episode I think back in December or January with Elisa in a lot of detail and really lays this out very clearly.

ELISA LEWIS: And I do think that we should take a moment, while we’re on this topic, to just give a shout-out to our live captioners who are on with us today live captioning this event. No pressure. I know we kind of said, it’s happening now. It’s all live. But just a shout-out there. And if you don’t have the captions on, reminder to turn them on using the Closed Caption button on the bottom of Zoom.

So moving on, all three organizations– 3Play Media, Captionmax, and NCC– have been around for quite some time. So moving to the bulk of this acquisition conversation, why did this acquisition take place now?

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, it’s a great question. Kind of tackle it from a few different directions. Topically, it relates kind of directly back to the previous question about, why live now? So Captionmax and NCC both obviously have a long history of providing live captions in the broadcast space and in the web-streaming space at scale.

So absolutely, the market is expanding rapidly around live. Our customers were clamoring for a new– a different in kind solution. And we think, collectively, we’re well-positioned to offer that solution. So very timely from that perspective in terms of complementary capabilities and markets, et cetera.

But on a standalone basis, 3Play is growing. Our team is amazing. The work we do is meaningful and rewarding every day. And honestly, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to do acquisitions or to look more carefully at growing inorganically in this way. And our bias has been towards saying no to these for fear of disrupting the delicate balance and the thing that we’ve created and built here.

So I think what was different about live is the urgency and the immediacy. This was happening right now at huge scale. And we just felt so deeply that, together with Captionmax and NCC, we could address the needs as they were evolving, as they were presenting, in a totally different way, in a totally different scale. And if we built this on our own and two or three years later we had that solution in hand, we’d just be too late to really provide the solution that the market needs today.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you. We’re just switching our ASL interpreter spotlight. So let us know if there are any issues there.

So there are a number of players in this space. And like you mentioned, other opportunities have been around for acquisition. Why did 3Play choose to acquire Captionmax and National Captioning Canada?

JOSH MILLER: Yeah, so as Chris mentioned, part of it is the timeliness of where we are at, where they’re at. But it’s really worth calling out that, in any acquisition, and especially this one, yes, we chose to acquire Captionmax and NCC, but they also chose us. And I think that’s really, really important. They could have taken a different path. They could have chosen someone else to work with or gone a different route entirely.

So at the root of all of this in making this successful and actually getting the deal done is really building the relationships and identifying alignment in where we’re going as a company in the future, and our visions for what the future could look like aligned. Are we thinking about things the same way? And that’s really, really important to see if this is going to work. So that was there. And we obviously took time to develop it. But that was something that was really important to us and exciting that it existed.

As we’ve talked about, we’ve been exploring live. And we had actually been in the live game for a little over a year with an automated solution using speech recognition and had more recently launched a professional live captioning solution with humans. And so we’ve been in this for a little over a year. But like we’ve talked about, it’s hard. And there’s a lot that can go wrong. And there’s a lot that needs to be built.

So this acquisition brings immediate scale and domain expertise, as well as market presence that we didn’t have in both broadcast and Canada. So there are a whole bunch of factors that got us excited about why we should do this now and how the timeliness of it makes sense. And so it was something that– well, it took a long time. Any of these acquisitions will– any acquisition will take a long time. But this came together really well.

And one of the pieces that’s worth touching on is that, early in the conversations, it was very clear that we had very similar values and a very similar mission, very similar beliefs about building products and services for customers and doing everything we could do to bring peace of mind to our customers, so that they know we are going to do right by that with whatever it may be, whether it be live captioning, recorded captioning, subtitles, and so on.

All three companies really are known for customer experience and high quality, reliability, and really being a full-service accessibility partner with all kinds of different guarantees, whether it be quality or turnaround, support SLAs as well. And that’s something– it’s different for each one of us in terms of where we play. We play more in a web-oriented world. Captionmax is more in a broadcast world. So some of these might be defined slightly differently. But it all comes back to those same core values. And that was really important for us.

So what that means is that customers across all three companies should know and feel comfortable that that’s the way we’re thinking, is we’re thinking customer first. And they shouldn’t have concerns about whether things might change dramatically or for the worse or anything like that. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We’re going to be leveraging each other’s strengths to figure out, how do we continue to innovate? How do we continue to provide the best possible customer experience, the best possible outcome for our collective customers?

So there are certain things that we do really well when it comes to technology and scale and reliability. There are certain things that, obviously, Captionmax and NCC do really well around live and other services as well. So we’re really excited to combine them and bring those complementary natures together, because that’s what will make this truly successful.

So that’s all the stuff that’s kind of– the soft stuff that matters actually quite a bit in terms of making us successful. When we get into some of the more tactical, growth-oriented initiatives, we look at the market.

So the fact that NCC is based in Canada was actually extremely important to us. So Canada has some of the most progressive accessibility laws in the world. And NCC has this incredible presence with really good customers, but they’re actually really almost entirely a live captioning outfit, where there’s an opportunity to bring more services to their customers and really bring a fully-scaled suite– full suite of solutions to the Canadian market.

Both NCC and Captionmax have actually turned work away due to the need for more capacity. We talked about capacity in live, but it cuts across all their services. And that’s what we really built our business on in the recorded space. So there’s more growth opportunities if the right tools and systems and processes are put in place.

Certainly, as I said, with NCC, we’re going to be working with them to get beyond live captioning, put in more sales and marketing processes. And then with Captionmax, again, it’s streamlining workflows and bringing more capacity.

With the media landscape changing so much, as a leader– I’m sure we’ll talk more about this idea of being a leader– we really want to be at the forefront. And this combination allows us to do that. And that’s what this is really about, is being able to accelerate the areas that we want to work on and also bring some of our strengths to Captionmax and NCC in a way that is truly complementary, truly collaborative, so that customers will continue to have that ultimate peace of mind.

So as I said, we all define some of these aspects a little bit differently in terms of what does reliability mean, what does quality mean. But at the end of it, we are all customer-first and quality-first, and we’re focused on the same long-term mission of really driving accessibility to all video, one way or another. And so to us, this is one way to accelerate that timeline of reaching that point where every video is captioned and subtitled for one reason or another.

CHRIS ANTUNES: And I think there– I mean, Josh, you’ve covered so much of it here. But the only thing I’d add is, when we think about an acquisition or combination of a few different companies, it’s one thing for this all to look good in an Excel model or to look good on paper. And it can be kind of clear as day that we have complementary products and services that can, when combined, produce a more efficient, scalable, fulsome suite of solutions for our customers.

But the rubber hits the road when you’re talking about, can you execute? Can you actually bring that vision to life? And that is all about the people and all about the alignment.

And I’ll just say, frankly, you can, in one or two conversations with leaders of certain groups, understand whether there’s compatibility there and whether you’re going to be able to execute together. And I think from the beginning of our conversations with the Captionmax and NCC leadership, it was clear that we would all find joy in the collective execution and innovation and challenge ahead.

And early days here– still very early days here, still, six, seven weeks in. But so far, that promise has delivered. There’s complicated problems to solve and multiple geographies to traverse. But everyone is excited about it. And honestly, that sort of spirit of entrepreneurialism and solution-seeking over problem-pointing has been so central to making 3Play successful since the origin. And we just see that DNA, again, with NCC and Captionmax so clearly.

ELISA LEWIS: So you mentioned a number of different pieces of this acquisition. One that I’d like to dig a little bit more into is the exciting expansion opportunity into the Canadian market. Can you share a little bit about how the market in Canada differs from the US market and what this looks like for 3Play?

JOSH MILLER: Yeah, so for those who don’t know, Canada has some of the most progressive accessibility laws in the entire world. So there’s the AODA, which is focused on Ontario, specifically. There’s also the Accessible Canada Act. And it basically is all about bringing accessibility to all walks of life, across all industries, and making sure that nobody is left out.

So it is kind of the ultimate inclusion legislation when it comes to accessibility. So that’s something that is really interesting to us because it means that every organization is thinking about video accessibility one way or another, because they really have to.

The other piece that’s pretty interesting is Canadian Heritage. So that is a program all about keeping– basically, keeping resources and dollars in Canada for Canadian film and video production. So it’s called the CPTC. It’s the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, where any filmmaker or content owner that’s producing content locally in Canada with Canadian resources will actually be eligible for pretty significant tax credits.

So being able to have a presence in Canada allows us to work with customers more directly for all of what we just talked about, certainly the Accessible Canada Act, but also the CPTC, which really we could not do as effectively if we were entirely operating out of the United States.

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, and this is a callback on the financial side here to something I think I mentioned earlier, which is making it easier for groups or companies to say yes. And programs like these, tax credits like these, certainly help. And again, being able to offer a solution at scale with that financial offset is clearly helpful.

ELISA LEWIS: So the phrase “new market leader” has been used in several of the announcements regarding this transaction. Can you share a little bit more about what’s behind that phrase, the “new market leader”?

JOSH MILLER: Sure, so I guess we should start by defining what a market leader is and how it’s measured. So it could be market share. It could be revenue, growth rate, customer count. I mean, there are a lot of different ways to think about it. Those are all very important and I’d say part of the equation.

We really like to think about innovation and being the authority in the space, so really kind of being on the forefront of everything. So we really do expect to set a bar for new product development when it comes to video accessibility and having the most or delivering the most valuable solutions to our customers.

So we think about, how can we be a thought leader for the people who are coming into this industry for the first time? How can we offer guidance? How can we be viewed as a resource and not just a vendor, which I think I mentioned before. So we’re really thinking about leadership in that big “L” way, if you will, and not just on paper in terms of numbers. So that’s one thing that’s, I think, worth quickly noting.

And we’ve been around for 14 years. And we were the first ones to go deep into the use of machine learning and technology and speech recognition as part of creating captions and the whole idea of bringing services to market at scale being our focus.

So our view has always been to do that with the highest level of quality, never to sacrifice quality just to be fast or just to do things at high volumes, but to have an incredibly reliable system and to really offer the best publisher or user experience when it comes to accessible video and being able to deliver peace of mind.

And that is something that we’ve thought about from the very beginning. I think more recently, we’ve been using this phrase, “peace of mind.” But that’s really who we’ve been from the very beginning.

And so we’ve similarly taken this approach of being the trusted advisor for our customers and being a partner in the entire effort and being connected with our community. Obviously, events like this, I think it’s really important that we are creating content and sharing best practices so that we all are staying up to date on the latest standards, the best practices, and really encouraging everyone to identify new ways of making their content accessible. So I think that’s a big part of it.

And then more recently, we’ve had new entrants in the market. I mean, certainly, Rev and Verbit, they’ve had their own approaches, and in some ways different, in some ways similar in terms of how they capture market share. So we are internally always talking about, how do we extend our lead? How do we extend our lead in the market having been the first one to do this at scale?

And one of the best ways to do that is to not only maintain all the differentiation, but also to continue to innovate and invest and explore new ways to separate ourselves from the pack. And part of that can come with acquisition, as we’re talking about.

So we’re constantly thinking about new product capabilities, improved features, even tangential markets. And those all have different implications. And obviously, we’re talking about a pretty big one today.

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, and I think just to add to that in the context of the competitive landscape, I think we really focused from the beginning of the company, and still today, as quality, guarantees around turnaround– so all these things that are wrapped up in terms of peace of mind– as non-negotiable. So we’ll innovate, we’ll try to find more cost-effective strategies that we can pass some of those savings onto our customers for sure, but all subject to quality not being lessened.

And again, there are definitely solutions out there where that’s not the case. And ASR alone or even a lower-quality solution can definitely make sense in some contexts. But we really, again, have been focused on innovation subject to continuing to guarantee that quality to our customers, who really view the transcripts and the captions as an extension of their product. And the accuracy and the quality reflects on their brand. Those are the ideal customers for 3Play, those that share that belief that the quality matters and is central to everything we’re doing here.

ELISA LEWIS: So as we begin to wrap up the conversation, looking ahead, what are some of the key trends that you’re paying attention to as part of maintaining this lead?

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, there’s a lot of things we’re paying attention to. It’s often a matter of what can we focus our attention on, because there’s so much we want to do. It really kind of redounds to prioritization. But I guess start with some big trends we’re following, and then maybe end with some of the things we’re pursuing.

So virtual and hybrid events, which maybe started as a trend two years ago, I think we all believe are here to stay. You see it with ACCESS this week. And it’s really encouraging that accessibility is kind of built-in from the foundation of a lot of these new platforms, and it’s a table stake, and it’s considered essential to the success of these platforms. So partnering with these groups and trying to, again, put our imprint on and have input into how the video accessibility and media accessibility aspects of remote events are solved.

Accessibility policies migrating from a state of being compliance-driven to more centrally and systematically part of a company’s core value setting, or even their policies around inclusion– it’s nice to see that change, to sort of see that chasm crossed, where accessibility is an inclusion issue, is a DEI issue at its core. That definitely changes the tenor of conversations that we see.

Always monitoring what’s happening around automated speech recognition and when it makes sense and where it can be deployed strategically to produce affordable, good outputs that make sense in context.

Audio description– obviously, this has been a focus for us for a few years now. And waiting to see what has to happen to get widespread adoption in the same way we’ve seen with closed-captioning where, frankly, with AD, the mass use in appeal and value isn’t quite as clear as it is with closed-captioning all of the time. But we think synthesized speech, at least from a cost perspective, can help us drive more and more adoption there.

I think there are sessions on this tomorrow. But I think lots and lots of people are monitoring what’s happening with the NAD and DRA lawsuit, focused on the lack of accessibility right now on several of the major podcast platforms and what ultimately is going to happen there, considering just the massive volume of audio flowing through those platforms– what standards are set, who ultimately ends up paying from a product design perspective, what does a truly equal and accessible solution look like in terms of transcripts, captions, ultimately, there.

Way further out, where we’ve participated in some of these standard settings meetings, but we’re excited to see what happens in the augmented reality and virtual reality space in terms of video accessibility and media accessibility, I think that’s far from a solved problem and in cement. But it’s early stages now and something we’re trying to orbit around and be as involved in as we can as it all gets sorted out. So that’s just to name a few. But there’s obviously a lot that we’re focused on.

JOSH MILLER: I think one thing that’s worth quickly noting is that the ASR conversation is really interesting when it comes to live. Obviously, with the increase in content and demand and the whole idea of lack of capacity and why we’re so interested in the live market is, is ASR OK in some cases?

And is it the right thing to do so that there is at least something there when otherwise there’d be no potential opportunity to put a captioner on an event? And I think there are certain cases you could argue it is appropriate to put ASR captions on, because there literally would be nothing else.

So I think that’s a conversation that we’re spending a good amount of time paying attention to and just trying to understand, what does that mean for the future of the market? There are always going to be events where live captioning requires a human. And there is no way that a machine will do justice for the importance of that event.

So there’s an interesting conversation to be had. And we think about encouraging people to be open-minded and try to be pragmatic about what is appropriate as opposed to taking an extreme approach of only one or the other at all times. Because there’s a world where both can survive and be a sustainable and actually very reasonable option for various organizations.

CHRIS ANTUNES: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And it’s such a nuanced conversation. And I think too often it becomes one or the other. Or all of a sudden, there’s going to be some massive leap forward in deep neural networks, and then the machines take over the world. But it’s so much more driven by context, and it’s so situational. And that’s why we offer an automated captioning solution and a professional captioning solution.

And all day in the recorded space, at huge volumes, we use speech recognition as a starting point and clean it up. And so as a result, there’s no one better equipped than us to know how accurate speech recognition is in certain scenarios, because we see the original speech recognition and the truth after it’s cleaned up by our recorded captioners.

So I absolutely agree with everything Josh said, that it’s nuanced, and there’s situations where one or the other makes sense. And at the mass and volumes we’re talking about with live video and certainly on the podcast platforms, there’s certainly space for both as these markets continue to mature.

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ELISA LEWIS: Thanks for listening to Allied. If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave us a rating and review. To catch all the latest on accessibility, visit www.3playmedia.com/alliedpodcast. Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time.


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