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Subtitle viewing trends

When thinking about chores, things like cleaning the car or mowing the lawn might spring to mind, but probably not reading subtitles. However, until fairly recently, this is largely the way reading captions alongside your favourite TV show was viewed.

Having to read what was being said as you listened to it was seen as inconvenient and an extra effort. But now, attitudes are changing. Subtitle usage is at an all-time high, with more and more viewers using them when watching TV, films, and social media videos.

Best put in the words of Academy Award-winning director Bong Joon-ho, “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” But what exactly is driving this sky-rocketing use of subs? Who’s using them, and what for? As a company who specialise in the production and delivery of high-quality, expert subtitles and closed captions, we thought we’d take a look…

Who’s using subtitles?

It’s not unusual for younger generations to lead the way with trends, especially when it comes to anything technological. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise to find out that it’s younger viewers that are largely driving the increased usage of subtitles.

With four out of five viewers aged 18-25 claiming to use subtitles all or part of the time, compared to less than a quarter of those aged between 56 and 75 saying the same, it’s clear to see who the main users are.

But when you consider the fact that people in the latter age bracket are almost twice as likely to be deaf or hard of hearing, you start to wonder what is driving younger generations to turn to captions.

Melanie Sharpe, the chief executive of deaf-led charity Stagetext, believes that younger generations can take in far more information in a quicker way compared to older audiences, leading to more of an acceptance of subtitles. This helps make them appear to be ‘the norm’ amongst younger audiences, meaning they’re no longer seen as an inconvenience or chore.

If this doesn’t reflect the generational split in subtitle usage enough, research has found that young people are more likely to say captions help them understand what’s going on, whereas older people claimed they were distracting.

Clearly, there’s still a way to go until subtitles are widely accepted as the norm across all demographics. But the increased usage of them cannot go unnoticed, so what is driving this trend?

What is driving these trends?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s solely foreign language content that is leading to an increased usage of subtitles. After all, besides providing assistance for those who are hard of hearing, making international content more accessible is one of their main uses.

But it’s not just foreign language content that’s being watched with captions. Audiences are switching on the subs for everything, even when the source audio is in a language they understand.

However, this isn’t to say that the widening market for international TV and film isn’t helping to drive this increase. Massive hit Netflix shows like Squid Game and Money Heist have been hugely popular despite their original audio being in Korean and Spanish respectively.

Taking into account the fact that it’s younger viewers that prefer watching with subtitles, it makes sense that that 41.65% of Squid Game viewers are between the ages of 18 and 29, and 58.65% are between 18 and 34. Clearly, there’s an undeniable relationship between those who prefer watching with subtitles, and those who are most open to foreign language content.

So, with foreign language content becoming more widely accessible and viewed, audiences are clearly becoming increasingly accepting of subtitles in all kinds of content, from English-speaking shows to social media videos. Switching on the captions for these types of content means they can be enjoyed in eyes-only environments, or when multi-tasking, or simply to help reinforce meaning.

Research has found that teenagers and those in their early 20s were most likely to use subtitles because it allowed them to multitask, or to focus on what’s being said, without focusing on background noise.

When it comes to social media, subtitles are an invaluable tool. They hook in casual viewers and encourage scrollers to stop and watch until the end, even if they’re in a noisy or busy environment. A staggering 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, making subtitles absolutely vital in driving up engagement and views.

So, although the majority of research suggests it’s largely younger viewers that are utilising subtitles and closed captions, there’s no doubt that this usage is helping to make the services more widely accepted. It may take time for older audiences to become used to them in the way younger viewers are, but the more accepted they become, the more accessible video content is.

How can subtitles benefit your business?

As more viewers and demographics become accustomed to seeing and using subtitles whilst consuming visual media, now is the time to utilise this to benefit your business.

Including subtitles on your next video project can widen your global audience reach and help make your business more accessible, whilst not alienating viewers with the fear of reading captions being a chore. Not only this, but subtitles can help make your social media content more interesting and improve your engagement rates, as users are more likely to stop and watch if they can read what’s going on, instead of having to play sound out loud in perhaps a busy environment.

Here at Matinée, we’ve been in the subtitling industry for over 30 years, and we have 80+ languages available for your next set of multilingual captions. Our expert, affordable service will help level up your next advert, explainer, or social media video, helping your content to become more accessible and engaging for a wider audience.

Why not get in touch with our expert team today to find out how we can help you?

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