How Much Does a Closed Captioning Service Cost? (And Why Price Isn’t Everything)

February 8, 2019 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: January 3, 2020

Video is a valuable means of communication for organizations across industries.

But without captioning, video is inaccessible.

As the rate of video production continues to increase at exponential rates, it’s important for organizations to factor in the cost of captioning.



Is the cost of closed captioning a barrier to accessibility?

It’s understandable that organizations are hesitant to caption. Depending on the scale of the project, closed captioning costs can add up quickly.

In a multi-industry report, respondents noted that the #1 barrier to captioning was cost and budget.

Often, content isn’t made accessible until a request for an accommodation is placed or someone files a lawsuit.

But taking a reactive approach to captioning can have costly consequences. Organizations across industries have gotten sued for failing to provide captions.

lawsuits for lack of captioning. in online video netflix, hulu and amazon all were sued separately by the National Association of the Deaf for lack of captions on their videos. Closed captions must comply with DCC caption quality standards (Hulu, Amazon). The ADA does extend to online-only businesses (Netflix). All organizations reached an agreement with the NAD. in education mit and harvard  were sued by the National Association of the Deaf for providing inaccurate captions.  The Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest agreeing that MIT and Harvard's inaccurate captions fail to provide equal access to the deaf and hard of hearing. The case is ongoing. in corporate fedex was sued for failing to accommodate online training courses to deaf and hard of hearing employees   In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf joined the plaintiff in the litigation. FedEx attempted to dismiss the case but was denied. The case remains in litigation.

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 – avoiding rushed orders. You’ll also be able to keep track of the amount of content that needs captioning, which can then help you build captioning costs into future budgets.

The Benefits of Captioning

Closed captions were created to make video accessible.

Over 5% of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. In America alone, 20% of the population is deaf or hard of hearing.

Without captions, your videos aren’t accessible to a large part of the population.

"the benefits of captioning makes your content accessible, makes your content easier to find, allows people to consume your content on the go, helps with brand recall, verbal memory, and behavioral intent, makes it easier to create new content

But captions also benefit everyone. In fact, 80% of people who use captions aren’t deaf or hard of hearing.

In today’s world, people have constant access to video at their fingertips. People are consuming video content on the train, at the gym, at work, and even while at a bar.

Whether it’s a noisy environment or so quiet you can hear a pin drop, captions let people hear your message without the need for audio.

Captions also help improve SEO. Since bots can’t read the content of your video, captions provide the bots with a text version of your video so they can index it better.

Captions also help with focus and engagement. A study by the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found that captions improve brand recall, verbal memory, and behavioral intent.

There are more reasons to caption your content, but simply put: captions offer a better user experience.

Cost of Captioning

The cost of captions can differ from vendor to vendor. Ultimately, it comes down to video duration, service, features, and quality.

download the guide: how to select the right captioning vendor

Most vendors charge per minute. Prices can range from $1 per minute to $15 per minute. Some vendors round up per minute, which can add up quickly – especially if you have a lot of short files.

Then there are some vendors who charge fees. They’ll charge a fee for multiple speakers, caption formats, resubmissions, and even video platform integrations.

Fees can also be charged based on the turnaround you select; faster turnarounds tend to cost a bit more.

Translations and caption placement are also additional costs and should be considered in your overall captioning budget.

Furthermore, you should always take quality into consideration. Some vendors promise a 99% accuracy rate but actually fall drastically short of this standard. If a vendor splits your files into segments, then divides these segments across multiple transcribers, more often than not there will be many inconsistencies and accuracy issues.

Some vendors don’t even offer a quality assurance process, and you are left to edit the captions yourself. Ultimately, this defeats the purpose of paying for captioning in the first place.

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


 Captioning Is a Big Deal – Choose the Right Vendor ➡️ 


How Process Dictates Cost of Captions

There are several ways you can create captions. You can use technology, create them 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.

Now, even when you caption in-house costs can add up.

For one thing, you have to consider the time it takes to create captions.

When captioning in-house, you have to calculate the time and costs for every step of the captioning process – video transcription, synchronization, and quality assurance.

"the cost of in house captioning. lets assume we pay $15 per hour. transcripton for five hours in $75, synchronization for one hour is $15, quality review for an hour and a half is $22.50 and management of personal is $52.5 the total comes to $165 for one hour of content

  • Transcription: A trained transcriptionist takes four to five hours transcribing one hour of audio or video content from scratch. In contrast, an untrained transcriptionist – like a student or employee – will take much longer to transcribe a video from scratch and will also require training and oversight.
  • Synchronization: Next, your captions have to be broken up into timed caption frames and synchronized with your video. This can add another hour or two to the in-house captioning process.
  • Quality assurance (QA): In order 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 key consideration is the amount of content you need captioned. More content requires more staff members to help – hence more money.

inaccurate captions cost you" data-w="880" data-h="300" data-f="false" alt="the cost of inaccurate captions. spend lots per time spent editing You shouldn't have to edit captions you pay for. Inaccurate captions mean employee time spent editing files. spend on resubmitting files  Some vendors charge you for quality assurance or resubmitting a file. If your captions aren't up to standards, why should you have to pay again? Spend on lawsuits and complaints MIT and Harvard were both sued for having inaccurate captions. Failing to meet industry standards could result in costly lawsuits. Inaccurate captions can also hurt your brand. Misspelling or inaccuracies can confuse viewers on your message

The benefit of using a vendor is that they have professional transcriptionist who work more efficiently. Furthermore, if you require quick turnaround times, there are vendors who can offer this.

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

Keep in mind that not all vendors are created equal. Some vendors offer a 99% accuracy rate but don’t actually measure it.

To help alleviate accuracy concerns, look for vendors who:

  • Measure their accuracy rate – and can tell you how.
  • Don’t crowdsource or use offshore transcriptionists.
  • Train transcriptionists on the standards.
  • Have a method for handling difficult content.
  • Have an easy way to edit captions without having to reprocess.

Always ask vendors about their captioning process.

What to Ask Captioning Vendors

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

Pricing Model

Examine the pricing model of your captioning company. Pricing is usually based on duration of the recorded content – either per minute or per 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 not to round at all. This can add up to significant savings, especially if you have a lot of short files. You should also ask vendors if there is a per-file minimum.

Cost of Fees

Next, ask if there are any extra fees that aren’t explained in the pricing model. Some captioning vendors have a base price, but then they have a long list of extra 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 or not the vendor requires a set up or platform fee. This added cost 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 is whether the vendor provides bulk discounts. In some cases, vendors will let you pre-purchase a bulk number of hours, providing you with sometimes significant discounts. Then whenever you upload content, it will deduct from that bulk credit. This is a great way to make captioning more cost-effective at scale.

Utilizing Technology to Bring Costs Down

At 3Play Media, we use a mix of technology and human editors to bring costs down. All our transcriptionists are US based, and only one transcriptionist is assigned per file.

We guarantee a 99% accuracy rate – in fact, we have a measured accuracy rate of 99.6%. We also offer integrations with video platforms, tools like caption encoding, and plugins like the interactive transcript, all designed to creatively elevate your videos with captions.

Because of our process, we are able to offer you greater quality, faster turnaround times, and more services.

Our Advice

  • Understand the vendor’s pricing model, and whether there are order minimums or price rounding.
  • Inquire about fees beyond the base price.
  • Seek bulk discounts if you need lots of video captioned.
  • Research the company’s video transcription process, whom they hire as transcriptionists, and whether they leverage speech recognition technology.
  • Assess your quality needs and calculate the cost of correcting errors from poor accuracy.
  • Test a file to try the workflow.
  • Read customer reviews.

How to Select the Right Closed Captioning Vendor downloadable white paper.


This blog post was originally published by Emily Griffin on 05/01/2015 and has since been updated.

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