The Dark Side of Netflix

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Netflix Turns a Deaf Ear to the Hearing Impaired

Closed Captioning Symbol

There is a frustrated group of consumers who are not getting proper respect or attention from Netflix: the deaf and hearing impaired. Many Netflix customers with hearing impairments have been urging Netflix to improve resources for finding and viewing closed captioned content.

Apparently, Netflix has not been addressing these concerns with much energy or interest. Deaf people are complaining that Netflix does far too little to allow the deaf to find closed captioned DVDs on Netflix's Web site. Even worse, closed captioning on Netflix's streaming content is inadequate. Surprisingly, some content that has subtitles on DVD does not have the subtitles on streaming. In short, deaf Netflix customers are getting the shaft.

Here's the worst part. Netflix's pricing structure seems to be a bit more friendly toward streaming viewers while discouraging those who wish to rely on DVD-by-mail. Deaf people rely more heavily on DVD content, because DVD content is more likely to include subtitles. Based on complaints from deaf people, Netflix's streaming service is just not an attractive option for those who have hearing impairments and must read dialog.

Let's forget about the social issues and corporate decency here for a second. Maybe it just makes good business sense to serve the needs of groups with special needs like the deaf. Imagine if a company were to accommodate a demographic like the deaf. This could create a very loyal customer set that could provide many years of steady revenue.

Really, how hard could it be? A lot of content already has subtitles. Beyond that, automatic closed captioning technology keeps getting better. Why is this major technology leader, Netflix, not able to better incorporate these services into its streaming content? Maybe Netflix should look at the long-term marketing potential of making their services more accessible and accommodating toward the deaf.