How Captioning Pricing Works

Pricing for Captioning

This is always one of the first questions we get asked from people looking to make their content accessible with live captions and closed captions.

Of course, we understand why. Price has a huge impact on how much content you can make accessible.

The Price of Closed Captioning

So how much should you expect to pay to get your recorded videos captioned?

The first and most economical option is to do it yourself. There are lots of software choices that allow you to caption your own content. We’ve created a guide that will step you through this process as well as give you tips on how to create captions.

Before you begin, it’s good to know what you’re in for because captions can take a bit of time to create. When you factor in the time cost, you may decide you’re better off outsourcing the job to a professional captioning company. Let’s take a quick look at the economics.

First you need to transcribe the video to convert the audio into text. Our fastest transcribers operate at a three-to-one ratio meaning it takes three times the length of the media to transcribe it. Novice transcribers shouldn’t expect anything faster than five to one. So if we use the example of a five minute video, you can expect this to take at least 25 minutes.

The next step is to take your transcript and turn it into blocked captions that are timed to the media. We call this the “timing” or “syncing” step. This is faster to perform than transcription but you can expect it to take at least 10 minutes to complete for your five-minute video.

So far, we’ve spent 35 minutes on our five-minute video.

The final step is to review your file in its entirety. Best practice is to use another set of eyes but regardless of who does it, this process takes at least the length of the video since it has to be watched from start to finish. Often it takes longer depending on the quality of the original transcription and timing, and there are almost always corrections to make. Nevertheless, let’s assume this process adds only five minutes. The total time spent is 40 minutes.

So how much is 40 minutes of time worth? You might be using people inside your organization like an intern or student who may be paid at $15 per hour, so the file has cost you $10 to make which equates to $2 per minute which is a competitive rate. Obviously, this doesn’t consider any additional time required to use captioning software, setting up and troubleshooting. It also may not be a good option if you have more videos than available time to complete the work.

Professional closed captioning

If you decide you’d rather focus on your own core business and outsource the job of captioning, the first thing to appreciate is that closed captions are charged based on the length of your video. Most companies usually charge to the next minute. But how much should you pay?

The good news is that there’s plenty of choices of suppliers with prices ranging from $0.25 cents per minute to $10 per minute.

Wait! What? That’s a huge range? How can companies survive charging $10 per minute when others are charging $0.25 per minute? Let’s unpack that question.

Closed Captioning Using Automatic Speech Recognition

Some believe it won’t be long until computers do everything. From self-driving cars to AI-powered lawyers and doctors. Converting audio into text seems like an easy job for a computer to do. And in some cases, it is!

Some closed captioning companies offer services that use speech recognition to automatically transcribe and caption videos. At the low range of $0.25 per minute, you can expect to get back a caption file that is automatically created by a computer with no human input. While the accuracy of speech recognition continues to improve, don’t expect anything close to perfection. Speech recognition accuracy can be as high as 90% when your video has one person in a quiet location speaking clearly using simple terms. In these cases, you should still allow time for cleaning up the file because even at the high quality level of 90%, this still means one in every ten words is wrong and that can grossly impact comprehension. If you fail to fix these errors, they can be jarring for anyone attempting to follow the captions for your video, or worse still, make it incomprehensible, misleading or offensive.

If your video features multiple speakers, ambient noise, background music, accents, content using acronyms or technical terms, you should forget this option. Automatic speech recognition simply isn’t good enough.

Closed Captioning Using People

Anyone wanting to deliver captions without errors can absolutely expect to require the need of real people to complete some of the work. There are so many companies to choose from. Some integrate automatic speech recognition to complete a first pass of your content with a human completing a quality control fix on the computer output. Others only use humans without any computers completing the captioning work.

One isn’t necessarily better than the other. These are simply different approaches to the captioning process. However, in selecting your choice of supplier, you need to look for both quality and consistency.

You could pay as little as $1 per minute for a human captioner to complete the captions for your video and receive a high-quality file. The problem is your next video sent to this provider may yield a caption file of poorer quality. Turnaround time also impacts the price, with priority or express delivery times often increasing the price you will be charged.

While paying more than the cheapest option to some may seem like a waste of money, others view a premium as a safeguard for reliability and protecting the high-quality of your captions. This ultimately depends on where your videos are being seen and by how many people. For a few extra dollars, it might be worth knowing that you don’t ever have to worry about your captions and you can keep your focus on your core business.

Get in touch

If you would like to discuss your upcoming live event or simply organize a quote for live or closed captioning, get in touch by emailing us:

The Price of Live Captioning / CART

In short, the price of live captions can range from $60 per hour to $300 per hour. We know what you’re thinking, “That’s a pretty big range”, and we agree!

There are a number of factors that influence the price range.

Basically, it depends on your event. More specifically, what type of content you’re planning to create live captions for, and some personal choices as to the level of quality you want.

What impacts price?

Broadly speaking, there are several factors that impact the overall price of live captioning, including:

1. Length of the live event

Contrary to popular belief, live captioning requires humans to deliver at the quality required. (Sorry techies, computers are nowhere near good enough!). And humans need breaks. So if you’re planning on live captioning an 8-hour conference, expect to pay a little more. Sessions up to an hour can generally be covered by one captioner, but those that run over 1 hour generally require more than one captioner or the use of a stenographer. The exceptions to this can be seen under: 6. Natural pauses in content

2. Speed of the dialogue

As people speak faster there are more words to transcribe. And as words increase, so does the mental strain on the captioner. As a result, they require more regular breaks throughout the session. Imagine captioning like juggling, the quicker you talk the more balls you have in the air and the sooner you’ll need a break.

For chat shows and panel programs, we regularly use two captioners alternating in 10—15 minute periods handing over throughout the session. Think of it like a tag-team. These sessions can cost more as you’re paying for both captioners on the tag-team even though only one is live at a time. This has the added bonus that the captioner who isn’t tagged in can edit the live captions of their colleague, which is a big boost to quality.

3. Number of speakers

There is a strong correlation between the number of speakers and the amount of words to transcribe. If you think of a late-night television chat program, it’s not uncommon for the speed of dialogue to increase as the number of guests increases, as guests interact with one another with growing enthusiasm, emotion and word speed. Just like a family dinner party, the more heads there are, the more competition there is to get a word in!

4. Difficulty of the language used

One of the most important acts in live captioning to improve quality occurs before the scheduled start time.

Most events require the captioner to prepare e.g. speaker names, company names, brands, acronyms. We always ask our clients to send us a list of likely terms to assist our captioners during their preparation time and increase the quality of output exponentially.

This preparation involves the captioner anticipating the content they expect in the event and training their software to understand their typing (stenographer) or speaking (re-speaker). Where sessions are basic, less preparation is required. However, the more specialized the live event and the more complex the words used, the more software training is required.

Captioners get paid for the time it takes to prepare for a live session (either bundled into their hourly rate, or accounted for separately). Hence the more time they require to train their dictionary for a specific event, the higher the costs for that event.

5. Required quality level

Everyone loves quality, but not everyone wants or has the budget to pay top dollar. Make sure you communicate what your quality requirements are for your live event. There’s no point buying Prada shoes if all you need are thongs so you don’t burn your feet on the hot sand.

6. Natural pauses in the content

If your live event contains regular intervals where no-one is speaking, the captioning may be able to be performed with a single re-speaker. A good example is a school classroom where a teacher gives instructions to the class for performing a group exercise. This is then followed by a long period of silence as the students complete the task. This pause in content allows the re-speaker to rest their voice without the need for a second captioner to takeover.

Price ranges

We’ve outlined some price ranges here to give you an idea of what you should plan to spend to make your live content accessible. Remember, these prices are average and can vary depending on your specific circumstances, your location, and the live captioning provider.

Low Price Range – approx. $60-$100

Live captioning requires people to perform the job of translating the audio into written form. These human captioners are either re-speakers or stenographers.

Re-speakers, or voice-writers, convert audio into text by listening to the audio and simultaneously re-speaking that content into speech recognition software that they have translated to their voice, while also adding in punctuation and grammar.

Stenographers, or stenowriters, use a specialized keyboard using shorthand typing. The stenotype keyboard has fewer keys than a traditional qwerty keyboard and operates differently. Stenographers press multiple keys simultaneously to spell syllables or words phonetically, in a similar way to how a pianist plays chords on a piano. This chording technique allows stenographers to type at speeds of over 200 words per minute. As you can imagine, the level of skill required to become a stenographer is considerably higher than a re-speaker and they are paid accordingly.

This human cost is the most significant variable cost of live captioning. As such, the number of live captioners required to work on a session has an impact on the overall price.

The price of live captioning can be relatively low when the live event involves a single speaker with simple content being delivered at slow pace with multiple breaks throughout. The reason is that these sessions may only require one captioner to perform the work which allows the price to be kept low. With simple content, captioners do not need extra time to prepare their dictionaries as most of the words will already be there.

A typical scenario where this may occur is live captioning a school class where a single teacher is speaking relatively slowly with multiple breaks throughout the lesson for class work. This scenario allows a single respeaker to keep pace with the teacher and rest their voice during the natural pauses in the content.

Mid-Price Range – approx. $80-$175

The mid-range has a relatively broad range dependent on the number of captioners. The sessions within this range typically require faster, more difficult live content with a single speaker and fewer breaks. This may be an interview or university lecture where there are very few pauses and more complex content.

This situation may be covered by a single captioner although this will depend on the circumstances of the live event. Some university lectures require two captioners taking turns to keep pace with the speed of the content while others may only require one captioner. Costs can range from $80-$175.

Highest-Price Range – approx. $175-$300

You can expect to pay rates within this range where your live event requires captions to be at a high-quality level and your content is specialized, fast and delivered by multiple speakers with little to no breaks. These situations generally cover your larger conference and events with a large amount of attendees watching captions on a projected display. There may be additional setup charges required to perform a pre-show check to ensure audio is
properly received, and these checks are definitely worth it. Costs range from $175-$300.


While these prices are general, we hope this information helps you get a better understanding of the variables that impact live captioning pricing. Obviously, if you want a firm price for making your live content accessible, we’re happy to help. Just get in touch with us.