Producers say yes to audio description on Netflix.

it’s quite an astonishing feat at what information you find out when you actually dig deep into something and do a tad bit of investigating. Way back, Netflix had made a valiant case that it wasn’t up to them to produce the audio description track for TV shows and movies, and that they couldn’t legally do anything with the content because they didn’t hold any of the rights to the content that has audio description tracks, and that would need to be taken up with the media producers of the TV show. They are correct, but I wondered if they thought I was going to drop it at that. I didn’t. I decided to find out for myself just how much Netflix holds in terms of decisions.

The search, hunting, and getting the right contacts took me forever to do. First I had to try and find a show that had audio description on TV, and then I had to check and see if that show was on Netflix. I didn’t want to do a show that didn’t have audio description on Netflix, nor do a show that had audio description on TV but wasn’t on Netflix because then the response would take even longer because they’d have to work out licensing and the like, and, since they wouldn’t have audio description then that would add another complication to the mix explaining what audio description is.

With that in mind, I knew that finding a TV show that had audio description, and aired on both TV and Netflix was the easiest method to go that would definitely get me an answer, either way.

Finding that show, though, was easier said than done. With a WordPad document open and NVDA turned off, I looked through every entry in the audio description project listing only to find out that a few were on Netflix, and even then I may have missed some. The research took me an hour to complete on that end.

Once I had the shows, I needed to find the creator, also known as producer of the show. That swallowed up an additional two hours of my time because not everything wasn’t on Wikipedia.

With the shows Family Guy, The Office, Glee, and others in mind, I set out to find some contact information. This was the hardest of all, taking up two days to do, after repeat attempts, mind you, but I will get to that later.

Naturally, I started off by calling corporate offices of networks like FOX, NBC, etc. in most cases; a generic operator couldn’t transfer me, nor give me emails, nor give me phone numbers. Some didn’t have it in their database, others weren’t allowed, and others kept giving me a generic email, which I didn’t want to, have. I called for a specific reason and that reason was to get answers.

I tried sounding as business as possible but I guess when you have a stutter; many don’t take you seriously or think you’ve fallen very high and hit your head. Some operators cut me off, hanging up on me, leaving me no choice but to call using the IP relay service where I was hung up on for yet another day and a half. Usually when I call with the IP relay service, people on the other end have to speak slower. They’ve disabled the option for me to place HCO calls, hearing carry over, where I hear everything the other person is saying. I don’t know why they discontinued that feature, but now I have to use the IP relay service just like a deaf person. I’m just a person with a speech disability but TV station operators think it’s a scam, and they hang up on me, or speak too fast and then they hang up on me, again.

The third day, I have managed to get someone who’s in charge of Family guy, out of all 56 calls I have made, I had only one lead and so I followed up accordingly. She wishes to remain nameless, and she didn’t give me permission to copy her email, but she said that yes, Seth did have the rights to the show, hence, he negotiates licenses. I explained my result with Netflix, and explained my situation via email, as that’s my best mode of communication. She actually was surprised that it didn’t have audio description on Netflix, and she wondered why. Just to make things better on myself, I forwarded her the email sent by Netflix staff. She immediately responded with a urgency to push this Netflix woman, and explain that this show is on TV with audio description already, and make it very clear that the audio description has been produced, and also make it VERY clear that they’d be more than happy to license, or anything else to help. So, I sent the Netflix staff this email.

Hi XXX. This is Robert Kingett again. Recently I sent you an email about the availability of audio description on instant streaming services. You pointed out that it’s up to the producers to provide audio description. There are already shows on TV and movies with audio description, and who are willing to provide the audio description to Netflix. Family Guy, a show that is both on Netflix and on TV, offers described episodes after season 10. Since Family Guy offers audio description on TV already, I’d like to know how Netflix would work with the producer of the show to also provide audio description for instant streaming. Family Guy airs on FOX with audio description. Knowing this, how can we move forward in regards to providing audio description on instant streaming? Since the producers are providing audio description on TV already isn’t it up to Netflix to negotiate audio description on their systems and services if the audio description is already provided for other mediums the show airs on?

The reply that I received was that, in that case, FOX holds the control over the audio description, not the producers, since the audio description is produced. FOX airs the show bundled with the audio description so the producers wouldn’t have any say so. Just to check her facts, I emailed 13 other Netflix email addresses I had collected. No response shot into my inbox from any of them, and it has been a week since the last email. Since FOX airs the show, they have all the rights, so I’d need to talk to someone at FOX. She didn’t even give me a name of any sort. I didn’t want to be treated like a joke anymore, so I contacted my Family Guy contact who told me that she’d look, and dig, and find out who I’d need to speak to and she promised that she would give me a direct contact, even number. So, I guess now we just wait on the big reveal. I don’t know when that will happen but I’m sure it won’t be far off before I have a definitive answer. At least someone is taking me seriously, but with very few leads, the worry is mounting. Will my efforts be in vein? I hope not. I do wish though, that I had someone helping me make these calls. People really don’t like IP relay but what other options do I have?

The good news, we’ve learned something, the bad, we need to learn more about the vast world of licensing. We will keep looking, however.

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10 thoughts on “Producers say yes to audio description on Netflix.

  1. I take my hat off to you for running with this project. Were you aware that NetFlix has started producing their own programming? House of Cards, Orange is the new Black and Arrested Development.

    • I’m aware and I’m looking at addressing that next. I just thought that it would be a good start to go with shows like Family Guy. I didn’t know what original Netflix content was but I will ask about that at a later date. You can always definitely email me and I will give you the email that I have at Netflix? I can’t do everything this quickly by myself, with all the other stuff I have going on. I will definitely look no it and then ask about it when I have the time. How are you doing?

  2. A few points:
    1. Shows were not legally mandated to require audio description until July 1, 2012, so most episodes of Family Guy and the Office will not be described.
    2. Netflix does include audio description on DVDs which include it on the rental version.
    3. Why would the licensing issues be any different for video description than for captioning? If Netflix can negotiate to have all of their streaming content captioned, they should be able to include audio description. I think this is more about choice than it is about restrictions.

    • 1. Shows were not legally mandated to require audio description until July 1, 2012, so most episodes of Family Guy and the Office will not be described.
      We know that.

      2. Netflix does include audio description on DVDs which include it on the rental version.
      We know that too but there isn’t an easy way to tell what DVDs have audio description. also, we’re aiming to get audio description onto streaming content.

      3. Why would the licensing issues be any different for video description than for captioning? If Netflix can negotiate to have all of their streaming content captioned, they should be able to include audio description. I think this is more about choice than it is about restrictions.

      In the United States law doesn’t include audio description on the internet at all. plus, Netflix has told us that they weren’t responsible for the audio description so talk to the producers and the distributers. I did, so all future Family guy episodes with audio description will be available to the Netflix streaming team.

  3. I am so glad someone is taking up this project. Have you gotten any answers from anyone else yet? I’d be more than happy to help you with phone calls or anything else you need 🙂 feel free to email or contact me. If you cannot see my email from me providing it here, please let me know. I am totally blind and would love audio description on Netflix 🙂

    • Try calling them, or tweeting them, or emailing. we have their contact information in our how you can help us page. We have done all that they can and they have said no. No, No to AD and accessibility

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