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How To Turn Closed Captioning On or Off on YouTube TV

Posted by Anna Middleton on May 22, 2019

YouTube TV is a very credible cord cutting option for those of you who like a little live TV with your boxsets. It offers live broadcasts from over 70 networks, cloud DVR, sports, news, boxsets and a ton of other stuff. It also offers accessibility features for those with particular needs. I’m going to concentrate on one of those needs, closed captioning.

Closed captioning (CC) is a vital element of any TV show, movie or broadcast that allows those with hearing issues to enjoy the same media we all enjoy. Around 15% of all Americans have some kind of hearing difficulty, a statistic that is likely reflected in other countries too.

Closed captioning is different from subtitles in that it includes much more of a scene. Subtitles contains only dialog where closed captions also include background noises and any sound pertinent to what you’re seeing on screen. It’s a much more involving experience which is why it is important.

Closed captioning on YouTube TV

YouTube TV has both subtitles and closed captions. All YouTube brands have some version of each to help with accessibility. How you use them depends on what device you’re using at the time. Some will allow you to change font, font size and color while other shows don’t have that facility. I guess it depends on what network produces the show.

If you’re using YouTube TV in Chrome, do this to enable closed captioning on YouTube TV:

  1. Select the CC icon if visible or the three dot menu icon.
  2. Select Closed captions.
  3. Toggle to on.
  4. Select the cog icon to select the CC settings to change the appearance if appropriate.

To turn it off, just repeat the above but turn CC to off instead of on.

Using the Android app, do this:

  1. Look for the CC logo while the show loads in YouTube TV or use the three dot menu icon.
  2. Select the icon and select a CC track.
  3. Select the cog icon to adjust the closed captions appearance.

As with the browser, just repeat the above to turn off closed captions if you no longer need them.

Using the iPhone or iPad app, do this:

  1. Select the three dot menu icon once a TV show has loaded in YouTube TV.
  2. Select Closed Captions and select a CC track.
  3. If the settings icon appears, you will be able to adjust the look of CC.

As above, repeat this to turn off closed captioning.

Live TV shows will not always let you change the closed caption settings. It all depends on the network and show in question. CC is controlled by the broadcaster so when watching live TV, you’re at the mercy of that network. Most networks try to provide clear, legible closed captions but if you’re not able to see them clearly, it may not be the fault of YouTube TV.

How closed captioning works

Closed captioning is of real benefit to the hearing impaired but how are the captions generated? How does CC work on YouTube TV?

Closed captions are created in one of three ways. Much depends on the type of TV show being captioned and the technology available to the studio. Typical methods are manually using a stenographer, manual creation using the script or automatic using AI.

In some unscripted shows like quiz shows or interviews where you don’t necessarily know what’s coming next, a human stenographer may create closed captions as the show unfolds. They listen to what’s going on and manually type the subtitles and sound cues into their stenograph machine. This is then embedded into the broadcast to be picked up by your player.

Scripted shows will often create subtitles and closed captions in post-production using the script and interpretation of what happens on screen. These are then embedded into the broadcast ready for use.

Increasingly, studios are using AI to automatically generate subtitles and closed captions. This technology is still in its infancy and often gets things wrong. Once refined to a reliable standard, this will take over from the two manual methods as it will be cheaper, faster and hopefully, more accurate than it is now. AI can either perform captioning in advance or on the fly.

YouTube is playing around with AI for subtitles and it isn’t very good yet. That will obviously change as the system develops. I’m not sure if they use the same system for closed captioning or not but YouTube TV uses a different system as described above.

More Americans than I thought have hearing issues. If you’re one of them, at least you know you can enjoy YouTube TV with closed captions so you get the same levels of enjoyment everyone else does!

2 thoughts on “How To Turn Closed Captioning On or Off on YouTube TV”

Bob says:
I have just signed up for YouTube live streaming tv and the closed captions will not work on any of my tv’s. I am able to view the live programs but no cc. The cc is on but no luck. It does work on my Ipad.
Any ideas on how I can turn the cc on.
Reply
Marian Decker says:
We are watching YouTube tv with Roku. I have close captioning turned on Roku but it does not show up on YouTube tv. Is there a w as to get it ?
Reply
Rosemary says:
Following
Reply
Dave Kline says:
Hard to describe, but press the * button. You’ll get a line at the bottom; press the down arrow and you will find that one of the little icons below that line is cc. Scroll over to it (it’s toward the left) and press the OK button. Then check one of the cc boxes. Often, the program does not have closed captioning so even if you have it set up, you may not get it. Had this with TBS, and some of the other cable channels. When this occurs the actors may as well be speaking a foreign language. Good luck.

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