What’s the True Price of Closed Captioning Services?

July 25, 2022 BY REBECCA KLEIN
Updated: February 6, 2024

10 Crucial Questions to Ask a Captioning Vendor [Free Guide]

Video is a valuable business and communication tool for organizations across many industries. However, videos without closed captions are inaccessible to over 430 million people worldwide with hearing loss.

As global video production and consumption rates continue to increase, organizations must provide accessible viewing experiences. To do so, they need to understand the price of closed captioning.

Is the price of closed captioning a barrier to accessibility?

In a multi-industry report, respondents noted that the number one barrier to captioning was budget.

Understandably, some organizations are hesitant to caption because of pricing. Depending on the scale of a project, closed captioning prices can add up quickly.

Often, content isn’t made accessible until a user places a request for an accommodation or someone files a lawsuit. However, taking a reactive approach to captioning can have expensive consequences—even more expensive than simply paying for captioning from the start.

Key Captioning Lawsuits
Online Video: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon were sued for lack of captions on their videos.
Education: MIT and Harvard were sued for providing inaccurate captions on public-facing videos.
Corporate: FedEx was sued for failing to caption online employee training courses.

Being proactive about captioning helps you save money in the long run. For example, if you have a captioning plan in place, you’ll be able to schedule captioning into production and avoid rushed orders, which are more expensive than standard turnarounds. You’ll also be able to keep track of the amount of content that needs captioning, which can then help you build closed captioning expenses into future budgets.

The benefits of captioning

Closed captions were created to make video accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Over 5% of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. In America alone, 20% of the population is d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Without captions, your videos are inaccessible to a significant part of the population.

Although captions were made for people with hearing loss, they also benefit everyone. In fact, 80% of people who use captions aren’t deaf or hard of hearing.

In today’s world, we have constant access to video. Whether watching in a noisy restaurant or a quiet library, viewers can use captions to understand video content without the need for audio.

Additionally, captions boost video SEO and help with focus and engagement. Multiple studies have found that captions improve brand recall, verbal memory, and behavioral intent.

Closed captioning prices: results may varymoney with magnifier

Captioning prices can differ from vendor to vendor. Ultimately, pricing will come down to video duration, service, features, and quality.

Most vendors charge per minute. Captioning rates can range from $1 per minute to $15 per minute. Some vendors round up per minute, which can add up quickly if you have many short files.

Some vendors also charge fees. For example, vendors might charge extra for multiple speakers, caption formats, resubmissions, or video platform integrations.

Vendors can also charge fees based on the turnaround you select; faster turnarounds tend to cost more.

You should also consider translations and caption placement as additional expenses in your overall captioning budget.

Furthermore, you should always consider quality. Some vendors promise a 99% accuracy rate but fall drastically short of this standard. If a vendor splits your files into segments and then divides these segments across multiple transcribers, there will often be many inconsistencies and accuracy issues.

Some vendors don’t even offer a quality assurance process, leaving you with the time-consuming process of editing the captions yourself. Ultimately, this defeats the purpose of paying for captioning in the first place.

When budgeting for captions, it’s essential to consider all your needs and plan accordingly.

 Quality captions are essential for accessibility and compliance. Learn how to choose the right vendor ➡️  

How process dictates closed captioning prices

There are several ways you can create captions. You can use speech recognition technology, create captions yourself, or hire a professional captioning vendor.

Using automatic speech recognition (ASR) is cheap and fast but often painfully inaccurate. YouTube, for example, offers free automatic captioning, but accuracy rates can range from 60% to 70%. Thus, you end up spending more time fixing your ASR captions.

When you caption in-house, expenses can also add up. If you choose this route, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to create captions and the price for every step of the captioning process, such as video transcription, synchronization, and quality assurance.

Steps of the in-house captioning process

  • Transcription: A trained transcriptionist takes four to five hours to transcribe one hour of audio or video content from scratch. In contrast, an untrained transcriptionist will take much longer to transcribe a video from scratch and require training and oversight.
  • Synchronization: Next, your captions must be broken up into timed caption frames and synchronized with your video, which can add another hour or two to the in-house captioning process.
  • Quality assurance (QA): For captions to meet the quality requirements set by the FCC, DCMP, and WCAG, they need to be accurate. The industry standard for caption quality is a 99% accuracy rate. In-house QA will take additional time and resources.



Another critical consideration is the amount of content you need to caption. More content requires more staff members to help, adding to the total expense.

The Cost of Inaccurate Captions
Cost of Time Spent Editing: Inaccurate captions mean your employees have to spend more time editing files.
Cost of Resubmitting Files: If your captions aren’t up to standard, why should you have to pay again?
Cost of Lawsuits: Failing to meet industry standards for video accessibility can result in expensive lawsuits.

The benefit of using a vendor is that they have professional transcriptionists who work more efficiently. Additionally, vendors can often accommodate quick turnaround times.

Depending on the vendor, captions can be created with technology, humans, or a combination of both.

To help alleviate accuracy concerns, look for vendors who:

  • Measure their accuracy rate and can tell you how they do so
  • Don’t crowdsource
  • Train transcriptionists on quality standards
  • Have a method for handling difficult content
  • Have an easy way to edit captions without having to reprocess files

Always ask vendors about their captioning process before committing.

 Learn what else you should ask a potential captioning vendor ➡️ 


Questions to ask captioning vendors

The best way to gauge a captioning company’s cost-effectiveness is by researching its transcription process and reading customer reviews. This way, you’ll know you’re getting the best value for your money.

Pricing Model

Examine the pricing model of your captioning company. Vendors usually base the pricing on the duration of the recorded content, either per minute or hour. However, you should ask vendors about rounding.

Many captioning vendors round up to the nearest minute or 5-minute increment. The most cost-effective approach is to not round at all. With rounding, costs can add up significantly, especially if you have a lot of short files. You should also ask vendors if there is a per-file minimum.

Price of Fees

Next, ask if any extra fees aren’t explained in the pricing model. Some captioning vendors have a base price but also have a long list of additional fees for multiple speakers, speaker identification, certain caption formats, etc. Make sure you understand the total price so there are no surprises.

You’ll also want to know whether the vendor requires a setup or platform fee. This added fee might not make sense for you if you’re looking for a one-time captioning project.

You should also ask whether the vendor requires a minimum order to begin captioning. If you only have sporadic captioning needs, you don’t want to be penalized for not having a lot of content.

Bulk Discounts

Once you know how the pricing model works, the next question to ask is whether the vendor provides bulk discounts. Sometimes, vendors will let you pre-purchase a bulk number of hours, potentially providing you with significant discounts.

Using technology to decrease costs

At 3Play Media, we use a mix of patented technology and human editors to bring pricing down.

We guarantee a 99.6% accuracy rate and offer integrations with video platforms and tools like caption encoding and playlist search, all of which can elevate your videos creatively with captions.

Thanks to our unique and efficient captioning process, we can offer you greater quality, faster turnaround times, and more services.

In conclusion: our “price advice”

  • Understand the vendor’s pricing model and whether they require order minimums or price rounding.
  • Inquire about additional fees beyond the base price.
  • If you need captioning for many videos, seek bulk discounts.
  • Research a vendor’s video transcription process, who they hire as transcriptionists, and whether they leverage speech recognition technology.
  • Assess your quality needs and then calculate the potential cost of correcting errors from poor accuracy.
  • Test a file to try out a vendor’s workflow.
  • Read customer reviews!

How to select the right closed captioning vendor. 10 questions you need to ask. Download the guide.


This blog post was originally published by Emily Griffin on May 1, 2015, and has since been updated for accuracy, clarity, and freshness.

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