Now Playing on Netflix: More Streaming Subtitles

netflix subtitles

Netflix is finally making progress on one of the most-requested features for its streaming library, adding subtitles for more than 3,500 video titles. Even better? Those subtitled films and TV shows will be available on selected connected devices. But availability on some devices and not others just goes to show the struggle Netflix has in creating and updating applications for multiple different platforms.

The addition of subtitles has been a long time coming: Netflix subscribers, especially those who are hearing-impaired, have called for the company to add subtitles ever since the company launched its streaming service. But Netflix has had difficulty adding the feature, in part because tools for doing so — especially on connected devices — were weak or non-existent, according to a blog post that addressed the issue a few years ago.

A year ago, Netflix began a very limited rollout of subtitles on certain titles, with big plans to increase availability to the rest of its streaming library. Now, almost a year later, users can finally take heart knowing that Netflix is increasing the availability of subtitled streaming movies and TV shows.

In a blog post Friday, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt wrote that subtitles are now available on movies and TV shows that make up 30 percent of all streaming, with more subtitles being added every week. Netflix’s goal, according to Hunt, is to have subtitles available for titles that make up 80 percent of all streaming by the end of the year.

To help users find movies and TV shows with subtitles, Netflix has even added a helpful page that lists all updated films and TV shows and the languages that they are available in. The page suggests Netflix could add support for other languages. However, while Spanish and Korean are listed, there’s only one Korean-subtitled film and none in Spanish so far.

In addition to subtitles being available for online viewing on PCs, Netflix is also providing subtitles on selected connected devices. Right now, subtitles are supported on the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Google TV-powered TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes and the Boxee Box. Hunt wrote that support for subtitles on the Roku Player and Microsoft Xbox 360 would be available later in 2011.

The availability of subtitles on some streaming devices but not others underlines the struggle Netflix has in creating, maintaining and updating applications for multiple device platforms. The company boasts more than 250 consumer electronic devices that have its streaming service embedded, but many have different requirements for building apps. As a result, Netflix is looking to standardize its app build-outs on HTML5, which will enable it to create updates to the user interface for multiple devices without having to individually manage each one.

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