In all seriousness, closed captioning is arguably one of the most essential functions that any streaming service could possibly provide.

Not only do subtitles make streaming media accessible to both neurodivergent and hearing-impaired people, but they're also incredibly convenient for shows in which it's difficult to determine what's happening at a given time. 

As you've probably noticed yourself, however, subtitles can sometimes do more harm than good. 

You've probably experienced it on at least one occasion. Instead of reflecting what's being said onscreen, the captions are a garbled mess. The text obscures crucial details in a scene, with no option to reposition it. Or maybe they simply bug out and remain on the screen longer than they should. 

We aren't here to talk about closed captioning failures, though. Instead, we're going to go over a few features that every streaming media platform worth its salt absolutely needs to include for its subtitles. 

Multi-Language Availability

Not everyone speaks English as their first language. As a matter of fact, if you count only native speakers, Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. The point we're making here is quite simple — you should have the option to switch your subtitles between several different languages.

Ideally, you'll also have the option of choosing from a few dubs, but that may not always be possible or necessary. 

Full Customization

We live in an era of hyper-personalized experiences and complete customization. In such a world, who wants to watch subs that amount to little beyond text scrawled on a boring black bar? You already know the answer to that — nobody. 

A streaming platform worth its salt will not only have the option to change the position, size, and color of your subtitles but will also allow you to choose between multiple fonts. This isn't solely about personalization, either. There's also an accessibility angle.

For some people, the default subtitles might be too small to read, or the color might be difficult for them to see. The ability to change the font, size, color, and shading means they can tweak things until they're able to read comfortably. 

Support for Multiple Devices

Bafflingly enough, some streaming platforms only support subtitles on certain devices. Although most of us are probably in full couch potato mode while streaming, some people like to jump between systems — computer, tablet, smartphone, TV. Captioning should be available on each one of these platforms, adapted to the screen size but otherwise preserving any customization. 

Accuracy and Quality

This isn't much of an issue these days — most shows have their subtitles written and released well in advance of their debut on streaming media. At the same time, we've definitely noticed our fair share of spelling errors, grammatical flubs, and outright nonsense. Sure, people make mistakes.

But that's why editors exist. 

Ease of Use

Last but certainly not least, subtitles should be dead simple to configure. If you have to look up a knowledge base to figure out how to enable them, that's a problem. Streaming should be streamlined. 

There shouldn't be a learning curve to plopping yourself down on the couch and binging Carnival Row or Stranger Things. 

Quality Control

Subtitles are a crucial part of modern streaming media. Fortunately, most platforms seem to have clued into the fact that the features we've described above are all non-negotiable. And those that haven't will have to do so eventually.