Closed captions for streaming services compared

Need closed captions or subtitles to watch your favourite TV shows and movies on stream? These Internet TV providers offer just that.

Closed captioning (CC) and subtitles mean that anyone who requires (or would prefer) to see the audio spelled out on the screen is able to watch their shows and movies without raising an eyebrow wondering: "What the heck is going on?"

These written transcripts can be a helpful tool for those with hearing impairments, are hard of hearing or are learning a new language, to allow them to understand and watch the movie at its very best.

So because there's nothing worse than being left out of a joke, here's a comparison of which Video On Demand services and whether they enable you to access CC and subtitles or not (and how you can turn them on, if they do).

Happy watching!

Internet TV providerClosed captioning (CC) – Y/NAdditional information
NetflixYNetflix takes pride in providing CC and subtitles for all its TV shows and movies, so virtually all content offers this.
StanLimited content onlyMainly foreign films with English subtitles "burnt in" to the picture and any shows that have a CC icon on the video's details page before playback.
Foxtel NowYSupported for selected programs streamed through Chrome and Safari web browsers as well as on iOS and the Foxtel box.
FoxtelYAvailable on 72 of its channels. Foxtel Go, Anytime and Store do not currently support CC.
Fetch TVYAvailable for many programs, including 20 Free-To-Air channels and 17 subscription TV channels.
Amazon Prime VideoYA large number of shows and movies on Amazon Prime Video support CC when streaming on computers, mobile devices and Amazon's own Fire devices.
hayuYMost of hayu's shows support CC.
Telstra TVLimited content onlySubtitles and CC are available on select catch-up and streaming apps through Telstra TV. Titles purchased and rented through BigPond Movies only currently support open captions rather than CC.

The verdict?

When it comes to CC, Netflix trumps all in its dedication to providing as much of its material with closed captioning or subtitle options as possible. This high ratio of CC options to movies means that anyone requiring a visual transcription of dialogue and sound can pretty much watch everything that it offers without hindrance.


Closed captions vs subtitles – what's the difference?

Yes, closed captioning and subtitles ARE different. While some countries use the words interchangeably, technically both options serve different purposes. CC is for the hearing impaired and is therefore meant to replace both sound and dialogue. Subtitles on the other hand assume that the viewer is capable of hearing, and therefore only transcribes dialogue (say, for foreign films) to help the viewer understand what is being said.

So when you notice that the "captions" at the bottom of your screen are telling you that birds are singing or that someone's knocking on a door off-screen, you have closed captions activated. They're also pretty good at separating character's dialogue by using word placement, which is especially handing when you've got a lot of people talking and it's difficult to keep up with who's saying what. With subtitles, they tend not to make this differentiation so obvious.


How to adjust subtitles and CC on Netflix

You can turn on and save subtitles and closed captions on your Netflix shows easily. How you will turn on your subtitles will vary depending on which device you are using to watch your shows. Here's how to access subtitles for specific devices:

FYI Dialogue buttons look like this: Subtitles

Mac / PC:

Begin playback on your selected titles, move your mouse over the screen and click on the "Dialogue" icon to select your preferred subtitle options.

Blu-Ray, Digital TV and Set Top Box:

Launch Netflix, select your title and click "Audio & Subtitles" from the options panel. Once you've chosen your options, press "Back" to return to the options panel, and then hit "Play" to watch.

Xbox One / 360:

Launch the Netflix app and begin playback of your selected title. When in playback, press "Down" to access "Audio & Subtitles". Highlight the link and press "A" then select your options.

If you've turned off closed captions yet are still seeing subtitles, you can disable them on your Xbox One by selecting "Settings > Closed Captioning > Closed Captioning Off" or, on your Xbox 360, by selecting "Settings > System > Console Settings > Display > Closed Captioning > Off". Don't forget to save and exit afterwards.

iPad / iPhone / iPod:

Begin playback on your selected title and tap anywhere on the screen. Click on the "Dialogue" button in the top right corner and select your preferred subtitle option. Click "Done" when complete. If subtitle settings on your device are affected by this, you can alter this by going to: "Settings > General > Accessibility > Subtitles & Captioning > Style".

PS3 / PS4:

Launch the Netflix app and begin playback of your selected title. When in playback, press "Down" to access "Audio & Subtitles". Highlight the link, press "X" then select your options.

Wii / Wii U:

Launch the Netflix channel and use the "A" button to select your title. On the description page, click the "Dialogue" button on the right of the screen and select your preferred options. When done, click "Play" to resume watching.

NOOK / Android device / Chromecast:

Begin playback on your selected title and tap anywhere on the screen. Click on the "Dialogue" icon to select your preferred subtitle option. Click "Done" when complete.

Apple TV:

You will need to have Software Version 5.0 or higher installed on your TV to enable subtitles and closed captions. To access and adjust these, hold down the centre button on your remote and select your preferred audio and subtitle options.

Google TV:

Select your movie or TV show and choose "Audio & Subtitles" to adjust them. Select "Play" to resume watching.

Roku:

On the description page of your selected title, click "Audio & Subtitles" and choose your preferred options. Then, press "Back" to return to the description page and hit "Play" to watch. Newer device may allow you to access audio and subtitles during playback by pressing the "Down" arrow.


To save or adjust your subtitles or CC, you will have to play your TV show or movie for at least five minutes in order for your preference to be set. You can also customise the appearance of your subtitles and captions if you're unhappy with the default look of them. You will need to log into your Netflix account online, visit 'Your Account' and go to the "Subtitle Appearance" link under the "Your Profile" section. If you are viewing Netflix from an Apple TV and iOS device, you'll need to complete your customisation preference via your device and not the website.


How to adjust captions and subtitles on Stan

While their subtitles and captions are limited, Stan does still offer a few closed caption shows and movies but from the looks of things this is limited to their foreign titles. These subtitles/captions will appear automatically on the screen during playback. There doesn't seem to be an option at the moment to turn them on or off.


How to adjust captions and subtitles on Foxtel

To turn captions and subtitles on or off a specific title or channel on your IQ press the "Set-up" button. Then, select "Closed Captions" and use the arrows to turn them on. Hit "Back" to exit. If you wish to save closed captions as a default, press the "Active" button, then select: "Setup > Advanced Settings > Picture Settings > Captions & Banner Settings". Highlight: "Closed Captions" and select "On". Save and press "Back" to exit.


How to adjust captions and subtitles on Fetch TV

Fetch TV offers some closed captioning. Look out for the CC symbol to find out if the show/movie you'd like to view offers closed captioning. You can find this symbol by doing any of the following:

  • Press the "INFO" button twice when watching a channel.
  • Press "Menu" on your remote to access the "Electronic Program Guide". Navigate to "TV > TV Guide". Then, press "info" on a specific program for CC details.
  • When in the "Electronic Program Guide", you can also hit the blue button to see the "List View". The CC logo will appear beneath the program description.

To enable closed captions, press the "Text" button on your remote control.


How to adjust captions and subtitles on Telstra TV

To access your subtitle and closed captions option, navigate to the "Settings" menu from the "Home" screen. You'll find a "Captions" menu here that will allow you to turn closed captions on and off.

Depending on what content you're watching, you may also need to activate closed captions on an app-by-app basis. You'll likely find the relevant option in the app's "Settings" menu.


How to adjust captions and subtitles on Amazon Prime Video

If a movie or TV show supports closed captions on Amazon Prime Video, you can activate them by starting the video and selecting the "CC" or "Subtitles" option from the playback controls.

You can also customise the size, colour and positioning of subtitles by going into your video settings on the Prime Video website and navigating to the "Subtitles Preferences" menu.

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Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at finder.com.au. On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal on hotels or a sale on flights, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too. Though probably not before she buys her own ticket.

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