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Closed Captions and New FCC Mandate For Online Video

This year’s FCC mandate on closed captioning need not be seen as yet another weight on broadcasters’ backs. Implemented as part of an automated system or outsourced to a qualified provider, adding accurate and immediate closed captions is another way for viewers to search and find your content.

TV broadcasters in the U.S. looking to re-run live programming online must implement the same closed captioning on their online video. Effective January 1st, 2017, the FCC regulation mandates closed captioning for all video montage clips that are published over the web if that same programming was captioned when shown live on TV in the U.S.

Hiren Hindocha

And effective July 1st, all live and near-live programming that runs online must be captioned if that same program included closed captions when broadcasted. A 12-hour delay is permitted for online clips after the live programming first ran on TV and the same has been set at 8 hours for near-live programs.

To provide the best possible viewer experience and comply with FCC guidelines, captions must be in perfect sync with the video. Imagine a sports highlight clip where captions lag behind the video by 10-15 seconds, as is the norm with manually produced broadcast captions for live news, sports, etc.

An automated closed captioning synchronization solution for live audio/video that synchronizes dialog and commentary into captions will be a must-have for broadcasters. An automated service ensuring the time stamp on the captions precisely matches the audio of live news and sports clips as it plays would relieve much of broadcasters’ burden after this ruling goes into effect.

Such an automatic closed caption synchronization service would retime the caption information within a video clip to maintain synchronization between the text running as captions and the corresponding dialog/action of the online video. As an example, if you’re a Major League Baseball (MLB) organization that needs to post video of an 8th inning home run on your website, the caption has to be synchronized exactly in accordance with the video and audio commentary.

Wrapped in a cloud-based platform, for broadcasters, this service would mean faster turnaround on synchronized captions, easy and secure data transfer, minimal manual intervention, and of course reduced cost due to the pay per usage model. Coupled with an automated workflow and option to integrate directly with the existing platform, this service will enable broadcasters keep their worries on this one at bay and focus on other items in their already crowded plate.

Another type of service coming on the market is closed caption generation for pre-recorded programs including near-live. Content providers can send their videos to a service provider who will create captions for the content within – also through a cloud-based service model.

Source: MPI tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990 and 2000 Decennial Censuses and 2010 and 2013 American Community Surveys.

Source: MPI tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990 and 2000 Decennial Censuses and 2010 and 2013 American Community Surveys.

Closed captions increase the discoverability of video content by a reported 10 percent. How do you ensure maximum reach of your promotional video to target audience if it can’t be found through search? If you’re an event promoter, how do people who may be interested in your event find your content? If you’re publishing a one minute clip from a recent show and decided not to include captions, you’re losing valuable data. Captions are even more valuable when they’re accurate.

Assets such as animated GIF images too can include closed captions. They can further leverage that material and create a longer lifespan of interest in it.

With clips of video over social media, viewers tend to watch without sound for a variety of reasons – particularly when watching video in any environment where there are others around and a lot of ambient noise, such as a crowded subway, café or office setting. The 80 percent muted video views on Facebook substantiate the necessity of having textual representation of audio on videos to engage the viewer far more than visuals alone. Accurate closed captioning translates into more impressions, more eyeballs on social media feeds and websites.

The automated systems developed and perfected over years to produce transcripts of events like corporate conferences can be applied to the generation of closed captions as well. The automation element has proven more efficient, scalable, and economical.

With automated closed captioning, video content becomes more discoverable, increases an organization’s SEO, and increases the number of users and website impressions. Content providers need to think of accurate closed captions as a marketing expense that increases the value and visibility of your online asset. 

This service comes with guarantees of high quality, completeness, synchronization and placement; the essentials to comply with FCC guidelines. Some of the value additions include multiple formats, encoding, ready-to-air, etc. This type of service could be used by any organization looking for captioned video, including schools, universities, city councils, trade show and event organizers, corporations, sports teams, and broadcasters.

Video of a conference session could be made available on demand, ensuring continued value of that program after its initial run. Anyone who’s missed an event can retrieve the video online and attend virtually at a convenient time and can choose to watch it with the audio and video only or with closed captions running. Organizers should consider providing closed captions to the recorded sessions in order to make it discoverable and in turn monetizing them.

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