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Based on the results of this study, Discovery Digital Networks rolled out captioning for the rest of their video content. They were pleased with the demonstrated increase in views, and believed that the projected gains would be profitable for their channels.

Discovery Digital Networks’ study shows that adding closed captions to YouTube videos can have a dramatic immediate impact on views, and by extension, ad revenue.

Discovering the Value of Captions for YouTube Videos


Captions Help Your Videos Appear More In Search Rank

Discovery Digital Networks wanted to be certain that the closed caption files were being indexed by YouTube’s search engine. To test this, they searched for a phrase that appeared in the transcript of the video, but not in the video title, description, or tags.

The captioned video ranked 4th on YouTube for the query, showing that YouTube does in fact index closed captions and factors them into search rank.


[Blog] Tips to Boost Your YouTube Search Rank

The Business Case for Captioning YouTube Videos


How many views does it take to make back what you spend on captioning your YouTube videos? Let’s break it down:

  • The typical range of YouTube CPM earnings is between $1 and $10 (between $0.001 and $0.01 per view).Captioning a 2-minute minute video through 3Play Media would start at $6.00.
  • If your CPM earnings are on the high end, you would only need about 6,800 lifetime views to reach breakeven. If your CPM earnings are on the low end, it would take about 68,000 lifetime views to get positive ROI.

With a 5-minute video, it would take 17,000-170,000 lifetime views to make back the money you spent on captioning, depending on your CPM earnings.

Discovery Digital Network’s Study & Methodology


How They Determined the Power of Captions for YouTube Video.

Through working with 3Play Media, Discovery Digital Networks transcribed 125 of 334 videos. The transcribed videos were published across 8 of their channels, including DNews, What’s the Big Deal?, and Tekzilla.

Data was collected corresponding to the date that captions were turned on for each individual video and was analyzed on a day-by-day basis. This process normalized the difference in views between recently published videos and videos that were published prior to being captioned; it also normalized the effects of viral videos on the data.

Discovery Digital Networks controlled the experiment by measuring the data obtained from the 125 transcribed videos against the remaining 209 uncaptioned videos.

*Update: Discovery Digital Networks was sold by Discovery Communications into Group Nine Media in December 2016 and, as such, no longer exists.

Get More Out of Your Online Video Content with Captioning & Transcription