SnapStream Blog

Feature Friday: Zach Douglas

May 29 2020 by Bethany Goldson



Checking Galaga for bugs


Welcome to #FeatureFriday where you can get to know members of the SnapStream team! Today, we are featuring Zach Douglas from QA:

How did you find SnapStream?

I first saw the job posting on online recruiting sites, but I was drawn to apply when I read about the company culture on the SnapStream website. I was looking to move to Houston from Austin, and SnapStream had a similar culture to the companies I was familiar with. 

What is your role here?

Quality Assurance Engineer

How have you grown with SnapStream?

I’ve grown a lot professionally as I’m working with a different type of technology from what I have been exposed to before. It’s been eye opening to learn how the broadcast world works. 

What is your favorite thing about SnapStream?

We have a relaxed and low-stress environment here. Everyone knows each other and we work really well together.

What do you like to do when you aren’t at SnapStream?

I love watching movies and going to shows, walking our dogs Monkey and Maya, and discovering Houston restaurants. I also used to own a record store in Austin, so I enjoy adding to my record collection.

New: SnapStream Managed TV Hosting

May 13 2020 by Rakesh

In order to record and create clips from broadcast TV, SnapStream customers typically need to manage physical set-top boxes and the necessary encoders somewhere in their office. But what if you don’t have the time, space, or knowledge for how to do that? Particularly, in today’s environment with a lot of staff working away from the office, it’s becoming more critical to not have to worry about managing physical hardware.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our new SnapStream Managed TV Hosting service, available today. This provides your organization a “touchless” SnapStream Cloud with no hardware to manage.

Here's how it works:

1. Customer orders the SnapStream Cloud service
2. Customer orders TV service at SnapStream's facility
3. SnapStream manages TV service install
4. SnapStream configures everything (including TV service and SnapStream Encoders)
5. Customer uses SnapStream Cloud (at!

SnapStream Managed TV Hosting is also great for those who want to record channels outside their market. For example, if you’re on the West Coast and want to watch and record live TV on an East Coast schedule, our new service allows you to do just that.

Contact SnapStream Sales at for details and pricing.

What’s New in SnapStream 9.4

March 03 2020 by Tina Nazerian

SnapStream 9.4 brings you a new clipping interface, pre-roll and post-roll branding on clips, integration with Kaltura, and many other bug fixes and improvements. You can see these new features in action by watching our on-demand webinar. Here’s what we’ve added and improved: 


A few of the highlights:

  • New Clipping Interface 
  • Pre-roll and Post-roll Branding on Clips 
  • Kaltura Integration

New Clipping Interface 


SnapStream 9.4’s new, snappier clipping interface will look familiar to former SnappyTV users. It gives you more fine-tuned control of in and out points during clip creation. You can configure SnapStream to automatically create an out point once you pick an in point (you can customize this—for example, you can set the automatic out point to occur after 10 seconds each time). Then, refine that out point and you’re done. 

The software will also show you a zooming trackbar that automatically sizes to the length of that clip. You can then go forward or backward by frame or second. The in and out point thumbnails allow you to quickly preview the clip’s start and end frames. You can also loop the whole clip or loop the last 2 seconds. 

To begin, use your mouse or keyboard to select an in point on a video. 


Pre-roll and Post-roll Branding on Clips


Give your brand one look in one place. With SnapStream 9.4, you can easily add custom branding, such as your company’s video intro, to your clips—no need to spend time using an additional video editor.

Simply upload and save your desired brandings for pre-rolls and post-rolls. Then, select the specific brandings you want to use from a drop-down menu as you create clips. 

To get started, go to the “Admin” tab and choose “Brandings” on the left-hand menu.


Kaltura Integration 


Natively export your clips in SnapStream to Kaltura. Kaltura is our newest integration with an OVP. SnapStream now has native support for 14 cloud storage, OVP, CDN, and MAM services—and is always adding more based on customer requests. 

To start using our newest integration, go to SnapStream and set up Kaltura as an external account. Don’t use Kaltura, but are curious? Learn more.



SnapStream 9.4 has many other bug fixes and improvements, like updates to the clipping hotkeys and the option to auto-minimize task pop-ups. Please read the full release notes.


Schedule Upgrade to 9.4

(Usually 1 hour) 
SnapStream’s support team will perform the upgrade via a remote session.


Watch On-Demand Webinar: SnapStream 9.4

See SnapStream 9.4 in action. 

The WatchESPN App is Gone. Now What?

December 18 2019 by Tina Nazerian

Developers               Loudness Graph_Dec_5.                          watch-espn-logo (1)                     

Earlier this year, ESPN killed its WatchESPN App. Now, all of ESPN’s streaming content is bundled into the ESPN app.

You might have been using the WatchESPN App to screen grab content you could then post to your sports team’s social media page. You can’t do that with the main ESPN app—it detects when users are trying to screen grab content. However, there’s a way you can still clip and share your sports team’s memorable moments—with SnapStream.


Clip & Share Moments from Live Video & Broadcast TV  

St. Louis Blues-Stanley-Cup-Tweet (1)

With SnapStream, you can clip and share any moment from broadcast TV and your own live video feeds. Specifically, you can create screenshots and frame-accurate GIFs and video clips. Then, with just a few clicks, you can email that content to anyone, or instantly post it to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. 


Make Clipping & Sharing a Collaborative Process



If you and your colleagues are live tweeting one of your team’s games, you can do so collaboratively—for example, you can divide up the work so that certain people create clips, and others look at those clips and decide which ones to post. SnapStream makes it easy to have that kind of workflow. It enables users to set clip points, and create and save bookmarks of those clips. Then, your colleagues can access those bookmarks and choose which ones to post.


Crop Clips for Instagram & Snapchat


SnapStream makes having Instagram and Snapchat-ready posts easy. There’s no need to use an additional editing tool. You can create screenshots, GIFs, and video clips with square dimensions, 9:16 dimensions, 16:9 dimensions, and 4:3 dimensions right within SnapStream.

SnapStream makes live video and  broadcast TV social. Our technology lets users instantly capture, create, and share video clips, GIFs, and screenshots to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as create square and vertical clips for Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. SnapStream's customers include BuzzFeed, Major League Soccer, and the Arizona Coyotes.

Need a Volicon Replacement? Ask These Questions

December 16 2019 by Tina Nazerian

Developers               Loudness Graph_Dec_5.                          need-a-Volicon-replacement-ask-these-questions-question-mark-image                     

Is finding a replacement for your current broadcast monitoring and compliance solution on your to-do list? According to a recent survey we conducted, 73% of respondents are looking to do so by the end of 2020. Of those looking to replace their current broadcast monitoring and compliance solution by the end of 2020, 75% are specifically looking for a Volicon replacement (meaning, they’re using Volicon today). 

During your research, there are several questions you should ask yourself about features. (For tailored questions you should ask based on your organization type, read how three broadcast industry professionals—one at a cable company, the second at a local TV station group, and the third at an MVPD—would evaluate their next broadcast monitoring and compliance solution). 


1) Do I need loudness monitoring?    

Loudness Graph_Dec_5

    The loudness graph in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

In the United States, the CALM Act regulates the audio of TV commercials in relation to the TV program they’re accompanying. Having automated tools for finding loudness problems and being alerted whenever there’s an issue is immensely helpful. 

2) Do I need audio metering? 


    The  Multiviewer in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance—with audio meters turned on. 

You might need to monitor audio levels without listening to the audio. If so, make sure your new solution lets you quickly determine audio levels for multiple feeds at a glance.  Loudness Peaks Dec 10Loudness Graph_Dec_5

3) Do I need closed captioning monitoring? 


    Clip export with burn-in of closed captioning in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

The FCC dictates that TV stations, cable and satellite providers, and program producers are responsible for closed captioning compliance. If your organization is found to be out of compliance, the fines can add up—the FCC considers each episode of a program with defective captions to be a separate violation. It’s vital to have a tool that can help you verify that your closed captions ran as they should have. 


4) Do I need to analyze ratings? 


     The ratings display graph in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

If you get ratings data from Nielsen or other providers, you can import that data to help you visualize it and analyze ratings performance for your content. For example, you can compare how different channels perform over specific times and dates to gain additional insights, such as whether you might have gotten low ratings on one channel because the majority of your viewers were watching another channel during that time period. 

5) Do I need ratings audio watermark monitoring? 


    An alert from SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance about a missing audio watermark. 

Audio watermarking is an important part of having accurate ratings data. If your organization uses ratings audio watermarks (such as Nielsen audio watermarks), it’s important to have a tool that can alert you if those watermarks are missing.

6) Do I need SCTE-35 message monitoring? 


SCTE-35 message monitoring in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

If you work at an MVPD, you’ll want to be notified if there aren’t any commercial messages in the stream. If it gets to the point where a broadcaster sees an ad not run, the broadcaster will contact you saying they didn’t get an avail message for that ad. Then, you’ll need to be able to easily jump to the date and time in question to look for the splice_insert for that particular avail.


7) Do I need as-run log integration? 


     As-run logs in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

If you need to prove to advertisers that their ads ran, it’s important to have a tool that lets you easily find specific ads in the as-run logs, create clips, and directly email advertisers those clips. 

With SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance, you can easily migrate your as-run and Nielsen ratings import configurations from Volicon. SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance is the official Volicon transition partner and  has solutions for loudness monitoring, audio metering, closed captioning monitoring, ratings monitoring, audio watermark monitoring, SCTE-35 monitoring, and as-run log integration.

Loudness Monitoring: Developer Q&A

November 27 2019 by Tina Nazerian

This is the first blog post in our series, "Behind the SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance Feature." 

"With SnapStream, instead of broadcast engineers having to manually look for the loudness problems, the problems will come and find them." — SnapStream developer Paul Place 

Developers               Loudness Graph_Dec_5Loudness Graph_Dec_5 .                                            The loudness graph in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance.                                          

Key Takeaways

1) When they were building the loudness feature in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance, developers Paul Place and Tim Parker had extensive conversations with Volicon users. 

2) During those conversations, they learned the major pain points Volicon users had with the product—such as having to manually look at the loudness graph daily.

3) In turn, they built a solution with an emphasis on exception based monitoring. 

When they were building the loudness feature in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance, developers Paul Place and Tim Parker spoke to multiple prospective customers. They dug into what in Volicon worked for them, and what didn’t—so they could make loudness monitoring in our own product comprehensive and user-friendly. 

They recently discussed their journey developing the loudness feature. 



SnapStream developers Paul Place (left) and Tim Parker (right).       

SnapStream: What research went into building SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance’s loudness monitoring features? 

Tim Parker: We started with Volicon. We took a look at was in the Volicon UI, and that gave us a bunch of hints on where we needed to start our research. 

When you open up the Volicon UI, you see things like ITU-R BS.1770 mentioned, or ATSC mentioned. Once you start looking at one of those documents, you realize there's a chain of documents that fit together. For the United States, it starts with the CALM Act, which then points to ATSC A/85 RP, which then points to the ITU-R BS. 1770 reference. 

We spent time doing extensive research on loudness specifications and how loudness is computed. We did it this way because we didn't just want to follow what others had done without knowing how and why it worked. We wanted a deep knowledge of what loudness really is so we knew that the product we planned to build would work the way our customers expect.

Loudness Peaks Dec 10Loudness Graph_Dec_5Loudness Peaks Dec 10

You can easily look for loudness peaks in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance's loudness graph. 

What insights did you gain from the conversations you had with Volicon customers? 

Paul Place: We focused a lot on how they were using Volicon. The Volicon UI is kind of confusing because there's a number of things they present that aren't in the standard. Were customers using short interval computations, for example? What are they, why do customers care? Volicon also has long interval integrated value computations. What are they, why do customers care? 

Interacting with customers and understanding their workflows helped us understand these features and pinpoint what was actually useful for them. 

For example, we put the short interval values into our product because it made sense to us—they allow the customer to do things like select the end of a program segment and figure out what the integrated loudness is for just that commercial. 

In other words, one of the biggest use cases for our customers is: is something too loud? The offender is usually a commercial. 

What happened with Volicon is that they sort of accrued features over time—some of them more useful than others. There's a lot there that we couldn't find anybody using.

Parker: It's an interesting ecosystem because there's basically two layers at play here. There's the layer of automation that ensures the loudness is normalized before it goes to the customer's set top box. 

And then we come in at the end of the chain, after it's been broadcast to the viewer. We're verifying that yes, this loudness is normalized. So when a viewer complains that something is loud, a broadcast engineer wants to analyze what went out to that viewer and see where it was loud. 

That helps the broadcast engineer identify what part of that chain—before it went out to the viewer—is not working properly. Broadcast engineers have devices and software that make sure that loudness is normalized, but sometimes they get out of spec or they stop functioning properly. We're the last step in making sure that everything is working properly for them.

Clip Export with Burn in Video-_1

Clip export with burn-in of loudness data in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance.

What were some major pain points Volicon users had that you both addressed? 

Place: We started to see a pattern of these broadcast engineers being reactive. Volicon didn't really offer a good means of identifying program segments that were out of compliance. One broadcast engineer we spoke to would just scan and look at the peaks and valleys on the loudness graph. When he saw a peak, he would zoom in to see if there was a problem. 

He had to go through this very manual process daily. Every single morning, he got in and he had a checklist of things to do. One of them was to look at the loudness graph for any problems. 

We knew we could do better than that in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. We’re giving broadcast engineers automated tools for finding the loudness problems and alerting them. With SnapStream, instead of broadcast engineers having to manually look for the loudness problems, the problems will come and find them. 

Volicon had an alerting system, but it was difficult enough to use that nobody we talked to used it, at least for loudness monitoring and compliance. Volicon users said they got a lot of alerts that they had to sift through to find the things they cared about. That made it not useful. 

Loudness Reportloudness report

Loudness report in SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance. 

SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance has a loudness graph and clip export with the option to burn-in loudness data. It also generates loudness reports. Could you give some more details on each? 

Parker: I've seen screenshots of other loudness tools and they generally do just the report feature, or you get a spreadsheet with numbers essentially. 

I think the way we present the loudness graph in the UI makes it easy for users to interact with and scrub the data—versus having a spreadsheet, which is limited in what it presents. 

Place: I think the visual indicators are very useful. For example, looking for peaks on the loudness graph. Say you have a day’s worth of data. You can easily see if a part of your feed fell above the maximum loudness target, and then be able to drill down and learn more. 

We’ve put a lot of engineering effort into making the loudness graph usable and responsive. You can zoom in and zoom out, for example. 

Parker: The clip export with the option to burn-in loudness data gives broadcast engineers evidence they can send to someone—for instance, to a colleague, saying “Hey, you need to fix this. Here’s the data.” 

And the goal of the loudness reports is to help users close to loop, so to speak. It’s a way for them to present proof to the FCC or another external stakeholder. 

With SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance, you can monitor your feeds for regulatory compliance and advertising proof of performance. Our solution includes loudness monitoring, closed captioning verification, audio watermark detection, and more. SnapStream also offers tools for searching TV; sharing TV clips to Twitter, Facebook, and more; and sharing clips of live events to social media in real-time. 

3 Ways to Give Your Election Coverage a Leg Up

November 26 2019 by Tina Nazerian

Axios-Tulsi-Gabbard-Tweet (1)                                                                                   

Much of the national conversation about the 2020 presidential election happens on TV—and being able to search, track, and clip that conversation can give your election coverage a leg up. 


Find Exact Moments

SnapStream-TV-Search (1)


Maybe you missed a candidate’s appearance on a news show, or simply didn’t catch a particular comment she or he made during a debate. With SnapStream, you can search through the closed captioning text and program guide data for all the TV shows you have recorded to instantly find the exact moments you’re looking for. 

You can search for a particular candidate’s name (such as “Bernie Sanders”), and even refine your search to find narrower matches (such as “Bernie Sanders” and “Elizabeth Warren”). 


Track Mentions with TV Alerts

Bernie Sanders-and-Elizabeth-Warren-TV-Alerts

With SnapStream’s TV Alerts feature, you can get consistent emails about the search terms that matter to you and your reporting. 

Each SnapStream TV Alert is made up of one or more search queries (ranging from simple to advanced). You can set up an unlimited number of TV Alerts, and dictate the frequency and time of day you get them.  

For example, you can set up TV Alerts for the search terms “Bernie Sanders,” and “Elizabeth Warren” to appear in your inbox every day at 9 AM. 

Additionally, you can send TV alerts to as many people as you’d like. 


Clip Videos for Increased Engagement on Social Media 

BuzzFeed-News-Joe-Biden-Tweet (1)

Did a candidate say something surprising on TV? Did a commentator or spokesperson make an interesting, insightful comment about the election? 

While you can write out a tweet or Facebook post quoting what was said, doing so takes away a lot of the nuance. Creating a video clip of that moment and sharing it on social media would be more powerful. Your followers would not only get to listen to what was said, but they’d also be able to glean additional context, such as tone and body language. 

They’d also be more likely to engage with your posts. On Twitter, for example, tweets with video get 10x more engagement than those without. 

With SnapStream, you can clip any moment from broadcast TV to create a video, GIF, or screenshot. You can then instantly share that moment to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. You can also vertically crop clips for sharing on Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.


SnapStream makes broadcast TV searchable, and live video and broadcast TV social. Users can find any moment and mention on TV by searching closed captioning data and setting up TV Alerts. They can also instantly capture, create, and share video clips, GIFs, and screenshots to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as create square and vertical clips for Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. SnapStream's customers include BuzzFeed, Politico, CNN, and the Media Research Center. 

Twitter LiveCut & SnappyTV Alternative: 3 SnapStream-Powered Posts with 500k+ Views

November 22 2019 by Tina Nazerian

St. Louis Blues-Stanley-Cup-Tweet (1)                                                                                   

The deadline for finding a SnappyTV alternative is approaching. SnappyTV will shut down on December 31. Twitter LiveCut, the tool Twitter has replaced it with, has limited functionality

SnappyTV versus Twitter LiveCut vs SnapStream

To keep your momentum on social media, it’s important to find a powerful SnappyTV alternative that enables you to record, clip, and share moments from live video and broadcast TV. 

With SnapStream, you can do everything you did with SnappyTV—and more. Here are three SnapStream-powered sports social media posts that got over half a million views. 


1) LSU Football's FB Clip of Marcus Spears's ESPN Appearance 

LSU Football alumnus Marcus Spears appeared on ESPN’s Get Up! show after the LSU Tigers won their first game against the Alabama Crimson Tide since 2011. Using SnapStream, LSU Football clipped his appearance on the show and posted it on its Facebook page. 

The post got more than 600,000 views, close to 9,000 shares, and almost 10,000 likes. 


2) The St. Louis Blues’ Tweet of the Stanley Cup Final

In June 2019, the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time. 

Their social media team tweeted a video clip of the final few seconds of that fateful game—and the players hugging each other and celebrating their historic win. That tweet garnered 2.2 million views, more than 15,000 retweets, and close to 50,000 likes. 


3) SportsNet New York’s Tweet of a Quinnen Williams Moment

During a press conference, Quinnen Williams, a defensive tackle for the New York Jets, had an awkwardly funny moment. 

SportsNet New York clipped and instantly posted that video on Twitter. It went viral, getting 3 million views, more than 7,000 retweets, and more than 28,000 likes. 


Looking for a SnappyTV alternative?  With SnapStream, you can ingest HLS and RTMP streams, natively export content to a variety of third-party services, record and search TV, and do a lot more. 

SnapStream Product Demo (watch now)

Replacing SnappyTV Webinar - Recording


SnapStream makes live video and  broadcast TV social. Our technology lets users instantly capture, create, and share video clips, GIFs, and screenshots to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as create square and vertical clips for Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. SnapStream's customers include BuzzFeed, Major League Soccer, and the Arizona Coyotes.

Ask These 3 Questions During Your Search for a SnappyTV Alternative

November 09 2019 by Tina Nazerian

Snappy Question                                                                                   

SnappyTV is going away December 31, 2019—meaning users have just several weeks left to find an alternative (LiveCut, the tool Twitter is replacing SnappyTV with, has limited functionality). 

You should ask these three questions as you search for your new solution.


What kind of streams does this tool support? 


Depending on your organization’s needs, you might use either RTMP or HLS streams, or both. However, Twitter LiveCut doesn’t support HLS streams—it only supports RTMP streams. 

When doing your research, ask what streams the product you’re considering supports. Having the option to use multiple types of streams gives you and your team flexibility.


Does this tool have broad native support for CDNs and OVPs?

image (24)

You might also want to be able to natively export the clips you create to a variety of third-party services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and YouTube. Twitter LiveCut does not support natively exporting to any third-party platforms. 

If you need to use OVP, CDN, and MAM services, make sure the tool you’re considering natively integrates with them. That way, you won’t have to resort to manually downloading clips and then uploading them to third-party services.


Does this tool record TV in addition to live video? 


Having recordings of broadcast TV in addition to recordings of your own video feeds can give you more content to use. You can bolster your organization’s social media accounts by creating and posting video clips, GIFs, and screenshots from your own feeds as well as from broadcast TV. 

Make sure that the tool you’re evaluating has a built-in Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to easily schedule recordings of different channels. Closed caption-based search is another powerful feature. It can make finding great content easy. 

For example, say a leader at your organization gets invited as a guest on a news program. A tool that enables you to search through the closed captioning data to find that TV appearance, create a clip of it, and share that clip to your organization’s social media accounts can ultimately lead to more engagement from your followers. 

Looking for a SnappyTV alternative?  With SnapStream, you can ingest HLS and RTMP streams, natively export content to a variety of third-party services, record and search TV, and do a lot more. 

SnapStream Product Demo (watch now)

Replacing SnappyTV Webinar - Recording


SnapStream makes live video and broadcast TV social. Our technology lets users instantly capture, create, and share video clips, GIFs, and screenshots to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as create square and vertical clips for Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. SnapStream's customers include BuzzFeed, Politico, and the Arizona Coyotes. 

3 Key Changes that Made Broadcast TV More Accessible in the U.S.

November 08 2019 by Tina Nazerian

Geoff Freed 2                                                                    


Key Takeaways

1) The "Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990" set the stage for modern accessibility, requiring TV hardware to support closed captions.

2) At the same time, a surge in the number of captioning agencies lowered prices and helped make closed captions ubiquitous.

3) Closed captioning requirements came to some online video through the "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)" of 2010. 


In the 1980s, if you wanted to view closed captions on your TV, you had to buy a separate set-top box or telecaption decoder. Nowadays, however, you can simply press a button on your remote, and the closed captions will appear on your screen. 

That’s just one way broadcast TV has become more accessible to audiences. As broadcast technology has advanced throughout the years, laws have been put in place to make sure those changes are accessible to a variety of people. 

Geoff Freed has spent more than 30 years leading broadcast, web, and multimedia accessibility initiatives at WGBH in Boston. He’s the Director of Technology Projects and Web Media Standards at the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), which operates out of WGBH

Throughout his career, he’s seen changes that have made broadcast TV more accessible. Here are the three most major ones he’s seen. 

Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990


A telecaption decoder.

Freed says that the initial broadcasts of TV programs with closed captions occurred in March 1980. Those TV programs were: 

1) "Semi-Tough" (ABC Sunday Night Movie)

2) "Masterpiece Theater" (PBS) 

3) "Son of Flubber" (NBC's Wonderful World of Disney)

However, if viewers wanted to view captions on their TV screens, they had to go out and purchase a set-top box or telecaption decoder. Telecaption decoders weren’t cheap. Freed says they cost about $250 back then, or about $700 today. 

“If you were deaf and you wanted to watch TV, you not only had to buy a TV like everyone else, but you had to find another device so you could follow along with what's going on,” he says. 

The Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, which went into effect July 1, 1993, changed that. The law states that if a TV receiver has a picture screen 13 inches or larger manufactured or imported for use in the US, it must have built-in decoder circuitry to display closed captions. The law also requires the FCC to ensure that as there are advancements in video technology, consumers continue to get closed captioning services. 

“With the enactment of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, suddenly most TVs sold in the US could decode captions for no extra cost,” he says. 


A Surge in the Number of Captioning Agencies

WGBH logo

WGBH's logo. Captions were originally invented for broadcast TV at The Caption Center at WGBH. 

Freed says that one of the major shifts that came with the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 was an increase in captioning agencies. 

He explains that captions were originally invented for broadcast TV at The Caption Center at WGBH. WGBH began providing open captions, or captions that viewers see and cannot turn off, in 1971. Open captions were the way that TV programs were captioned until closed captions, which viewers can turn off, came along around 1980. 

The Caption Center at WGBH was the world’s first captioning agency. The FCC set up the National Captioning Institute (NCI) in 1980 as a way “to quell objections from networks like ABC and NBC who did not want to pay a PBS station—WGBH—to create captions for their programming,” Freed explains. Shortly after the NCI was established, a third one, called VITAC, came onto the scene. They’re still in business. 

Only a small percentage of TV programs had captions until about 1991. There were no laws at that time mandating that TV programs had to be captioned. The closed captioning audience was small (Freed notes that by about 1992, only about 400,000 set-top closed caption decoders had been sold) and captions were expensive to create and code. Producers “were reluctant to spend money on captions because the size of the audience was so small compared to the general viewership.” 

Yet, those three organizations—WGBH, NCI, and VITAC—still kept busy. And in the early 1990s, there was an increase in captioning agencies. While the primary cause for that increase was the passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, another cause was the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That law, among other things, established new rules mandating closed captions for broadcast TV. 

“Suddenly in 1991, I can remember doing surveys of broadcasters and asking them, ‘who's doing your captioning?’ and I'd hear names I'd never heard of before,” Freed says.  

He explains that the impetus for the passage of closed captioning laws and rules was advocacy from the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Viewers and numerous deaf and hard-of-hearing advocacy groups complained, and legislators eventually listened. 

“Captioning agencies, led in large part by The Caption Center at WGBH, fought very hard to get laws passed that mandated captions on TV, too,” he says. “As you might expect, most broadcasters fought back, citing high costs and the small audience as the main reasons they did not want to be forced to provide captions.” 

However, as captioning agencies increased, prices decreased. Freed says there was so much price competition that some captioning agencies shut down because they simply couldn’t afford to stay in business. 

“You often get what you pay for,” Freed says. “But these days it's typical for people to charge depending on the level of caption production that you choose. As a producer or program provider, you might pay a dollar a minute. In the early 1980s, mid 1980s you would pay, more or less depending on who was doing the work, $2500 per hour.” 

He adds that producers and broadcasters saw those lower prices and realized that “captions actually broadened” their audience to anyone who owned a TV. 

“Captions were also being shown to be useful to people who were not deaf or hard of hearing,” he says. “They were useful for teaching kids and adults how to read. They were also useful for teaching foreign languages to adults as well.” 

The surge of new captioning agencies in the early 1990s meant that captioning technology also advanced. Today, there are a number of “do it yourself” captioning tools that are mostly for the creation of online captions. Anybody who produces online videos can create their own captions with these tools, some of which are free (including the one NCAM makes).  

“Making these tools available makes it easy or sort of removes one more excuse for not providing captions for videos that are only distributed online,” Freed says. 


21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

Office 1

Under the CVAA, when NBC puts "The Office" online, it must include closed captions, because the original program aired with closed captions.  

Broadcasters no longer solely distribute their content to television screens. They can now put their content in front of virtually anyone, anywhere via the internet. In October 2010, President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law to ensure that twenty-first century technologies are accessible to everyone. 

“What the CVAA basically did was make a number of rulings about captions and other accessibility matters,” Freed explains. 

One thing the law stipulates is that if a broadcaster airs a program with captions on TV, and then wants to put it on the internet, the web version has to have captions as well. 

“If you take a captioned program from broadcast and you put it on the internet in whatever form, such as moving it to a YouTube channel or embedding it on your own page, those captions have to travel with the program,” Freed says. 

One exception to that rule is that a program or video created and distributed solely for the web doesn’t need to be captioned. 

“There are no regulations mandating captions for videos that are created solely for the web,” Freed notes. However, he thinks that captions for web-only videos will eventually become mandatory. 

Another thing the law states is that certain types of devices, such as Roku boxes and smart TVs with internet capabilities, have to be accessible to people who can’t see the screen. 

“You can buy Roku boxes these days and similar devices that will speak to you if you can't see the screen,” Freed says. 

The law also states that on-screen program guides must be accessible to those who can’t see. 

“If you turn on the capability, you'll be able to listen to the menus and listen to all of the programming grids for Netflix or Amazon or whatever and use them with your remote control, even if you can't see the screen,” Freed says. 

The law has made an “enormous difference” to people who can’t see who have decided to cut the cord and go with online distributed media. 

“Up until this rule was passed, anybody who was blind or visually impaired and wanted to watch TV alone or wanted to watch a program alone via a smart app or a Roku box was out of luck because there was no way to operate it non-visually.” 

With SnapStream Monitoring & Compliance, you can monitor your feeds for regulatory compliance and advertising proof of performance. Our solution includes closed captioning verification, loudness monitoring, audio watermark detection, and more. SnapStream also offers tools for searching TV; sharing TV clips to Twitter, Facebook, and more; and sharing clips of live events to social media in real-time. 

SnapStream is:
  • how The Daily Show finds TV clips for their show
  • how organizations clip TV to Twitter and Facebook
  • how broadcasters can monitor their feeds for regulatory compliance
  • and more

Posts by Topic

see all