Audio Description for HBO Max Is Coming Soon

November 3, 2020 BY JACLYN LEDUC

Per a settlement agreement, WarnerMedia Direct, LLC has pledged to increase accessibility for people who are blind and low vision by providing audio description for HBO Max.

HBO Max, launched May 27, 2020, is an over-the-top (OTT) American subscription video-on-demand streaming service from AT&T’s WarnerMedia. HBO Max streams all HBO programs, plus original content from WarnerMedia and other licensed third party programs. As of September 2020, HBO Max services 8.6 million active subscribers.

Due to the landmark agreement, consumers can expect audio description for HBO Max content, both new and existing, as soon as March 2021.

 

How the Americans with Disabilities Act Affects Online Video

 

The Landmark Agreement

The landmark agreement was between WarnerMedia Direct, LLC, the American Council of the Blind (ACB), Massachusetts-based Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB), Kim Charlson, and Brian Charlson. In the settlement, HBO Max committed to providing audio description to improve accessibility for people who are blind and low vision.

Audio description (AD) is an audio track that narrates the relevant visual information in media. Audio description assumes that the viewer cannot see the content on the screen, and therefore depicts the key visual elements necessary to understand the content. It is an essential accommodation for blind and low vision viewers and helps provide them with equal access to visual media such as TV and streaming programs.

In addition to providing audio description for HBO Max, WarnerMedia Direct will ensure platform accessibility by September 2021. HBO Max will update websites, mobile applications, and applications for Internet-connected TVs to be screen-reader accessible and comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

 

 Explore Video Accessibility Guidelines Through the Lens of the ADA ➡️ 

 

Audio Description for HBO Max and What to Expect

What can subscribers expect as far as audio description for HBO Max goes?

WarnerMedia Direct has agreed to provide audio description for at least 1,500 hours of new and existing programming on HBO Max by the end of March 2021. There will be ongoing efforts to increase HBO Max’s described library from 1,500 hours to 3,000 hours by the end of March 2022. Described content will double to at least 6,000 hours in total by the end of March 2023.

  • 1,500 hours of AD by March 2021
  • 3,000 hours of AD by March 2022
  • At least 6,000 hours of AD by March 2023

WarnerMedia Direct will ensure that audio description for HBO Max for all HBO original programs and HBO Max original programs entered into post-production after the platform’s launch. All original programming will have AD as soon as it’s available to stream on HBO Max. There is an exception for original live programming and near-live programming for which audio description will be available within fourteen days of the date it’s available to stream.

A Big Win

This settlement agreement is a big win for accessibility advocates and for people who are blind and low vision. In an article by the American Council of the Blind (ACB), Kim Charlson, Immediate Past President of the ACB, commented on the occasion’s significance:

This agreement opens doors for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to both enjoy what HBO Max provides in terms of entertainment and education, while also allowing blind and low vision people to share equally with family and friends in this truly universal pastime.Kim Charlson

Want to learn more about video accessibility best practices for the media and entertainment industry? Check out our free media and entertainment eBook that covers everything from best practices to standards to legal requirements for the digital distribution of TV and film.

 

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This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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