Netflix Adds Subtitles to iPad, iPhone App


Netflix (s NFLX) has expanded the availability of closed captioning on its streaming service with the latest update of its iOS application. (s AAPL) [Hat tip to Zatz Not Funny!] With the update, the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch join a growing list of consumer electronics devices that support streaming subtitles through the service.

Netflix has been hard at work adding subtitles to its streaming library, ever since first announcing their availability about a year ago. But it has struggled to do so, mainly due to a lack of standards. Still, Netflix is making some headway. In February, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt announced subtitles were available for 3,500 TV and movie titles, which make up about 30 percent of all streaming. (A complete list of assets with subtitles can be found at By the end of the year, Netflix hopes to increase that to titles that 80 percent of all streaming.

Getting subtitles onto the video assets is one thing, but getting them onto consumer electronics devices is a whole other struggle. In addition to Apple iOS devices, Netflix subtitles are also available on the Sony PlayStation 3, (s SNE) Nintendo Wii, Google (s GOOG) TV-powered TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes and the Boxee Box. According to Hunt’s earlier blog post, support for the Roku Player and Microsoft Xbox 360 (s msft) would come later this year.

But adding more devices could become difficult, particularly as Netflix has to update applications across multiple devices and app platforms individually. Not to mention, the limited processing power and overhead on some CE devices could limit its ability to add new features, such as streaming. Netflix has been trying to standardize as much of its app development as possible on HTML5 as a way to more quickly update the backend and user interface without having to rebuild CE apps from scratch. Even so, with the Netflix service available on more than 250 devices, some will benefit from new features like subtitles more quickly than others.


Dave Owen

If your computer will show the captions, but your TV won’t, here’s a workaround – provided you have the hardware and connections to make the TV an extension of the computer monitor. After doing so, bring up the film you want – clik to show captions, and drag the window to the TV. Move the mouse to the TV and click the ‘full screen’ button. Captions show up well on the TV. This can also be done by making the TV a clone of the computer monitor, but then you have the film running on two screens at once.


What about Apple TV Gen 2? Doesnt seem to be able to play Subtitle in netflix — It is an iOS based.


Apple TV does not have apps. The Netflix support is built-in and will improve with updates from Apple, not Netflix.

Joe Clark

Please stop confusing captions and subtitles, or using “subtitles” as an ill-considered generic term for both.

Cyndy Aleo

Thanks for the comment, Joe. It’s a tough call in copy editing, but in this case, we defaulted to the term Netflix is using. As you can see from the URL, Netflix itself is conflating subtitles and captioning. While correcting the language from a technical perspective makes sense, it may also confuse readers who would then go looking for the information on Netflix’s site, which uses the “subtitle” term.

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