Open Letter to Netflix

Dear Ms. Fisher of Public Relations for Netflix,

I am writing this long email with my request:

Thank you for making “The Wizard of Oz” available for viewing on October 3, 2009.

I want to be included in this 70th anniversary celebration of “The Wizard of Oz” with my family, friends, and everyone else. To be included, I need closed captions or English subtitles to understand and enjoy this classic movie.

Please provide a captioned version of “The Wizard of Oz” on October 3rd.

Thank you.

That email above was my second attempt. I made my first request on September 8th when you send out the press release about this exciting opportunity. On that day, I wrote email to public relations for the first time.

October 3rd – “The Wizard of Oz”

Are you committed to provide closed captions for this special feature?

I am a long time subscriber of your services – I subscribed for 5 years to get DVDs with captions only, and I cannot enjoy watching movies online because of lack of captions. That’s not right since Hulu is able to do this. Don’t say there is no technology available.

Now, you are debuting “The Wizard of Oz” on October 3rd. Are you including all of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to enjoy this classic?

If you are not seriously considering to caption this famous movie, it is going to be the biggest mistake in your part.

I insist you to incorporate captions now, no I mean, yesterday!

Thank you,
Amy Cohen Efron

And, Ms. Fisher, can you explain about the Netflix’s response dated on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 12:28 am?

At this time our instant watching feature is delivered through Microsoft’s Media Player. Microsoft’s Media Player, unfortunately, does not allow for closed captioning. It is something they are working on, and it is something we hope to include in future versions of our instant watching feature.

In the meantime, you will find that the films included in our instant watching service our also available on our DVD’s, which do include closed captioning.

Best,
Netflix

Ms. Fisher, this canned response above really upsets me. That response did not show any kind of interest to make this exciting opportunity accessible for a large group of deaf and hard of hearing people using closed captions everyday. That is the poorest excuse I’ve ever heard, and it does not justify how Hulu.com were able to provide captions. Even though, President Barak Obama’s inauguration speech ONLINE were closed captioned by Senate.gov! Below was an article which I wrote that was published at NAD advocacy blog.

This is Amy Cohen Efron, we would like to thank you for your contributions to NAD advocacy blog announcing about BISVRS’s ASL interpretation and Senate.gov’s live streaming online video with closed captions.

“This blog announcement was published on Monday, January 19th, and I used these services on an Inauguration Day at school. We set up our laptop connected to the Internet, with the LCD projector. We were able to display two browser windows side-by-side with the ASL interpretation with closed captioned video on the screen. We had our sign language interpreter standing on the stage interpreting for younger children.

presidential_swearing_in_2009

We took several pictures during this memorable event, and everyone in the audience were very engaged with Obama’s inauguration with cheers, tears and waving our hands with so much enthusiasm!

Never have I seen 100% accessibility like this on the Internet before! A big THANK YOU for making this known to all of us one day before the inauguration. You made a big impact on school.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing this with all of us. The NAD is pleased to learn that efforts to ensure an accessible Inaugural experience by deaf and hard of hearing Americans were successful.

Don’t ever tell me that you don’t have technology available. Maybe Microsoft’s Media Player should not be used. Maybe you would want to challenge Microsoft to make this possible as soon as possible. If you are working on it, then why the wait? Why would you make this special announcement to all of these people about “The Wizard of Oz”, especially the 70th year anniversary? Did you realize that this movie is an American icon? How unAmerican of Netflix for unable to make this movie accessible to EVERYONE? Think about it.

If you don’t close caption “The Wizard of Oz” – you are denying so many people celebrating this most important film in American history because of this lame excuse.

Don’t alienate us, because we can be your customers! Why should we have to watch DVD copy of “The Wizard of Oz”, while other people are able to watch it online? That’s discriminatory.

Please reconsider and act FAST! The more you stall, and you will probably lose a very loyal customer of Netflix, possibly many customers too.

Amy Cohen Efron

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18 comments on “Open Letter to Netflix

My understanding is about some movie theatres to screen the “Wizard of Oz” on silver screen as part of the 75th Anniversary of “Wizard of Oz”.

Have you seen “Laurel and Hardy” in the earliest version of “OZ”? It is available on Netflix.

I recall that our own generation (Amy and RLM and others) always seen the “Wizard of Oz” shown on the CBS-TV every springtime on the month of March or April.

By the way, you ought to read “Wicked” novel or play about why the Wicked Witch of the West ended up being evil which the good witch was a real bitch herself. Very interesting twist within Frank Braum’s “OZ”.

I always want to read the classic children books within the same title of “OZ”. 🙂

RLM

Yep, I love “The Wizard of Oz” and when I was small, I watched it without captions. Then later, there was a large comic book on The Wizard of Oz available. I purchased it and then watched it again with a comic book in front of me to follow the dialogue. Then couple of years later, I have captioned decoder, and I watched it. Several years later, I rented a DVD to watch it. Now its ONLINE, and I wanna to watch it with captions! Don’t shut me out! No more!

Thanks for leaving a comment here.

Amy

The response from Netflix is a JOKE! Microsoft’s Media Player does have both closed captioning and subtitle features included, but it sound a lot like they “don’t want” to do work of making captioning on the movies before showing them online.

Pathetic.

First, on a positive note, this remake is going to be amazing. Look at the quality of the trailer-http://thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com/

The theatre version is a satellite feed, so it’s not likely that captions will be available. The HiDef DVD comes out September 29, and does have SDH.

(do you think there’d be interest in a showing at that point?)

I whined on a Microsoft Press sight about MS and captions.

Answers from MS:
[quote]
Closed captioning works today in Silverlight and has been supported since the release of Silverlight 1.0. It is supported via Expression Encoder, Windows Media Encoder, and other tools, but you can actually have closed captions in Silverlight without ever using a tool to put them in the file.

Microsoft Expression Encoder has long supported input of standard captioning formats and default template players included with Expression Encoder include caption playback.

Multilingual captioning is a key feature of Microsoft’s new Silverlight Enhanced Movies project announced with Tesco on September 9, 2009.

Here’s a sample Silverlight player that includes captions:

http://silverlight.services.live.com/invoke/31260/ElephantsDreamCaptions480p/iframe.html
[/quote]
I followed up until this point
[quote]
Silverlight will not automatically render closed captions for you over your video for two primary reasons: Automatically handling closed captioning streams has proven to be a security risk in the past.
It isn’t always clear what to do with the caption data and the developers making use of the caption data are the people who have the best knowledge of how to handle it.
[/quote]

Hi Bill!

My goodness! What should we do???? You have shown examples that can be DONE!

What’s wrong with Netflix? Why would the public relations wrote this response as if they are so clueless? Who should we contact in Netflix?

Thanks for this valuable information!

Amy

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jared Evans and Amy Cohen Efron. Amy Cohen Efron said: Check my blog: Open Letter to Netflix http://bit.ly/379I5y #captionaction @marleematlin @netflix […]

Streaming Netflix through my Tivo does not require Microsoft’s Media Player. So what’s Netflix’s excuse on that issue?

Good point! I have no idea what is their excuse. If you are able to watch The Wizard of Oz via Tivo, then what’s wrong with the picture? Why would they make a big announcement about this special feature knowing that they will shun 39 million deaf and hard of hearing people who use captions, plus even more people who would like to have captions while watching at work, and people who want to learn English?

Unbelievable how ignorant they are! They make billions of dollars, and they just cannot invest technology to make it more accessible?

Something is wrong here.

Thanks for leaving a comment here.

Amy

Your open letter to Netflix is both obnoxious and ignorant. First of all, the full movie—including captions—is available to you from Netflix via DVD. Alleging discrimination because you are not happy with the very reasonable accommodation that is available to you, which would allow you to watch and enjoy the movie in full with subtitles, is obnoxious and makes about as much sense as a person in a wheelchair alleging discrimination because a venue requires them to take a side ramp rather than providing a way for them to be conveyed up the main stairs.

Next, the issue of the technological limitation is quite clear. If the Netflix service depends upon a player from Microsoft then the impetus to implement support for optional closed captions is clearly upon Microsoft, not Netflix. Netflix can emphasize their desire for this feature and that of their customers to Microsoft, but they can’t control what Microsoft implements or when. Blaming the wrong party is neither helpful to your cause nor appropriate. Rather, it simply makes you appear ignorant and libelous—two impressions that are not likely to encourage people to help you regardless of what you want.

Comparing a service that is made available through another party’s desktop application to one made available primarily through a custom Web-based player and secondarily through a custom desktop player is not a fair comparison. Hulu can offer subtitles because Flash video supports subtitles*, enabling them to support it in their custom player. I haven’t used Hulu’s desktop player, but as a custom player, they have control over it. As long as Netflix relies upon Microsoft’s player, they don’t have control over how or when Microsoft implements improvements.

There may be a possibility of Netflix creating a special version of the movie with captions superimposed on the video itself, but that would likely require special permissions and I am not certain whether it would be worthwhile to them or you to expend the resources to do that when DVDs are already available and additional accommodations are already in development.

Netflix’s current accommodation—to offer the same movie on DVD (their primary business, by the way)—seems very reasonable and their acknowledgment of your desire for in-player captions and their assurance that they are working on it should be encouraging. You are certainly entitled to be selfish, obnoxious, and ignorant, but I don’t think it helps the cause.

* Here is an article to help people incorporate captions into their own Flash video content: http://www.layersmagazine.com/closed-captioned-video-in-flash-cs3.html

Wow, that is quite bold of you to jump into this issue. So, you feel that I am not worthy to watch this special feature online and shunning me away by giving me a DVD with captions? Okay, let’s try this way…

I will pull the plug from your computer’s speakers, or disable volume. Then we both can enjoy watching “The Wizard of Oz” together with wonderful and happy feelings. You cannot hear Judy Garland’s beautiful voice singing “Over the Rainbow”, and I cannot understand what the Wizard of Oz was saying to Dorothy in the Emerald City, because the figure is hard for me to lipread.

Then we are in the same boat!

Or… do you have a nerve to tell us, 36 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing viewers to shut up, stop whining and rent a DVD?

Then I can have a nerve to demand Netflix to take out the sound of “The Wizard of Oz” online so that 300 million Americans cannot hear. Then I tell you to shut up, stop whining and go rent a DVD instead?

I don’t care about technology – and I just know that there are one available that will make closed captions available.

Thank you for allowing me to be a really obnoxious and ignorant with you, Mr. Sexton.

Don’t wish for what you ask of us to do something else. That’s a pure ignorance in your part.

Amy Cohen Efron

By the way, I am not a Netflix subscriber and I don’t actually know about closed captioning support in Microsoft’s Windows Media Player because I rarely use Windows Media Player, so my above comments should not be understood to mean that I know Netflix’s claims to be true—only to discuss them at face value.

Oh, you are not a Netflix subscriber and you don’t know about closed captioning support in Microsoft’s Media Player?

Ohhhhhh! Thank you so much for your disclosure. So your argument above is definitely a moot point.

I pay for Netflix services for FIVE years because of their extensive DVD collection with closed captions. UNTIL Netflix started with online viewing not long ago… all of these movies showing online are NOT captioned. We, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals contacted Netflix about this, and they kept saying… we don’t have technology now, and we are working on it right now. That was more than TWO years ago. Hulu uses Flash, then good for HULU! Other video companies use different video formats to make closed captioning available. GOOD FOR THEM.

Now, its time for Netflix to step up the plate. They want to show this movie that was most loved one ever, “The Wizard of Oz” online as a special feature. Now, you are telling me that it is not for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to enjoy this feature at this time because we are obnoxious and ignorant. We should appreciate the crumb that Netflix can provide, a old DVD copy.

*click* turning off the sound volume for you.

I bid goodbye my dear non-subscriber.

Amy Cohen Efron

You’re the one who wrote an open letter, so of course you should expect people to respond. Unfortunately, though, Ms. Efron, you seem to be demonstrating and championing bad behavior, forgoing rational thought and civility alike rather than working constructively to improve the situation.

Brian Sexton, you’re an idiot!

Window Media Players allowed you to turn “on” and “off” closed caption and subtitles, but it does not imprint captions on movies, which MEANS the companies who makes movies takes responsibility to add captions to them. NetFlix could add captions on movies, despite it “don’t have technology” to caption on online movies. Look at HULU, they already captioning some of movies and tvs ONLINE!

After posting your first response, then I saw ur second post claiming you don’t subscribe to NetFlix or know much about WMP’s closed captioning. You truly made yourself an idiot!

Brian,

Who are you? YOU are the one who’s ignorant and obnoxious.

Are you Hearing? Do you have Deaf friends? If yes, if no, respectively, then you really have no idea what we’re talking about and you have no place here.

It’s actually much deeper than just dealing with technological issues with giant corporates. Let us battle our own battles and welcome anyone Deaf or Hearing who is willing to help us.

I am getting real curious about who Brian Sexton he is.

I kinda admire this person for revealing what he really feel and think, but not agree with him.

Is Brian Sexton one of the anti-ADA in name of political conservatism and pro-business attitude?

His name is pretty familar. Is Sexton affilated with the Netflix?

RLM

[…] and CNN for their failures to provide captioning online. I started on September 15, 2009 with my Open Letter to Netflix since they were planning to release free online streaming show of The Wizard of Oz and I pleaded […]

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