Closed Captions? DIRECTV Subtitles? Which should you use?

When you turn on captioning on your DIRECTV receiver, you have two options. You can choose “Closed Captioning” or “DIRECTV Subtitles.” It may seem weird to have two choices, and it may be hard for you to decide which one is right for you. This is especially true because you might not be able to tell the difference at first glance. In order to understand this, you have to understand the history involved, and why you have two choices in the first place.

Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning on a DIRECTV receiver

Closed captioning was originally designed to help people with hearing loss enjoy television. The US Congress mandated that all TVs made after January 1, 1993 have the built-in ability to decode closed captions. Further refinements required that cable boxes and satellite receivers also have this ability.

Regular folks soon started using closed captioning to watch TV quietly when someone else was on the phone, or in the middle of the night. But remember, it wasn’t designed for that purpose. There are some very strict rules about how closed captioning must be presented. These rules benefit those with hearing issues and that’s the whole purpose.

DIRECTV Subtitles

DIRECTV Subtitles on a DIRECTV receiver

There’s a very interesting story about DIRECTV Subtitles. When DIRECTV launched its first DVR developed in-house, of course it had closed captioning abilities. But eagle-eyed (and presumably less eagle-eared) enthusiasts soon noticed it wasn’t implemented properly. Some of the way captions were presented weren’t up to the standards of the law.

This was a very temporary situation. The engineers listened, and they complied. But internally, they realized that the average person without hearing loss wasn’t getting the same experience they got before. The changes might have put things square with the law, but they didn’t necessarily seem as good.

So, using the same logic that was originally used, DIRECTV Subtitles were born. These use the same closed captioning data as the “regular” closed captioning but there are subtle differences.

What are the real differences?

Closed captioning on DIRECTV boxes can be customized. You can change the font, size, and even color. DIRECTV Subtitles are always yellow with a black outline, in the same font.

Closed captioning attempts to put the words near the person speaking them, and may include more descriptive audio (such as the words “music playing.”)

And that’s about it. But personally I think DIRECTV subtitles are subtly better. They make more sense when I, personally, am watching. But really you can’t go wrong. Choose the one you want and use it. It’s very easy to turn them on and off. Yes, it could be easier — it would be nice if you could set it to turn on subtitles whenever you muted. But that’s a minor thing really.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.