Sky Adds 4K Subtitles As Customers Threaten To Cancel

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After years of frustration and unfulfilled promises, Sky customers who rely on subtitles are finally seeing a glimmer of hope.

Ever since Sky began offering Ultra HD (4K) content at a premium price, customers have been baffled by the glaring absence of subtitles on these titles, especially considering that the same shows and films in HD resolution have had subtitle support all along.

The company’s failure to deliver on its 4K promises has disappointed and frustrated customers, with some even threatening to cancel their subscriptions.

But there’s good news – the broadcaster has finally introduced subtitles to a select few UHD titles this month, on Sky Glass, Sky Stream, and potentially Sky Q.

Mary and George UHD subtitles sky

However, the selection of titles is still quite limited. So while this move marks a step in the right direction, the vast majority of Sky’s UHD library remains inaccessible to those who depend on subtitles.

The Long Wait For 4K Subtitles

Sky’s journey towards fully accessible UHD content has been a slow and often criticized process.

Sky logo on a TV

While standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) titles have enjoyed subtitle support, UHD content has remained conspicuously absent of such accessibility features.

Back in 2021, Cord Busters was told by Sky that the company was “working to make these available later in 2022” – but that never happened.

In December 2022, Sky acknowledged the gap on its community forum, stating, “We have a project in progress to improve subtitle coverage across our content, and this includes subtitles for On Demand UHD content. This is expected to be available to customers from Summer 2023.”

Yet, summer came and went with no sign of the promised subtitles, leaving customers disappointed and frustrated. So I’ve been mentioning this issue in my annual “TV Blunders” list since 2022.

Sky’s customer base has been dissatisfied with the delay in implementing subtitles for UHD content, with many feeling that the broadcaster’s approach to accessibility has been lacklustre at best.

Angry man watching TV with phone

Comments from Sky’s community forums highlight the depth of the dissatisfaction.

One user branded the situation as “incredibly discriminatory and utterly inexcusable,” criticizing Sky’s promotional materials for suggesting users simply switch to HD for subtitles (a recommendation many reported receiving from Sky’s support team over the phone as well).

Another expressed their exhaustion with being “discriminated against,” pointing out the unfairness of paying the same rates as hearing customers for a service that doesn’t meet their needs.

“With our contract drawing to a close we’ve made the decision to serve a 31-day cancellation notice. The lack of subtitles on UHD content has been a major disappointment and a clear oversight in accessibility.

Initially when we discovered this issue at the start of our 18-month contract, we thought there was a problem with our Sky Stream puck. The idea that subtitles wouldn’t be available in 2022, especially with an additional charge for 4K quality, seemed implausible”.

Beyond Hard of Hearing: The Universal Appeal of Subtitles

The demand for subtitles extends far beyond the hard-of-hearing community.

Couple watching TV with subtitles illustration

Research shows that a significant portion of millennials and Gen Z viewers prefer using subtitles for various reasons, including improved comprehension and the ability to watch content in noisy environments or with the sound off.

This preference highlights the importance of subtitles not just as an accessibility feature but as a tool for enhancing the viewing experience for a broad audience.

Furthermore, most other streaming services (particularly the American ones like Netflix and Disney+) have had subtitles on all of their content for years – including, of course, on 4K / UHD content.

4K Subtitles Are Finally Here – But…

This month, Sky finally started adding subtitles to select UHD titles on its platforms.

The Flash UHD subtitles Sky

There’s been no official announcement yet – perhaps because the selection of titles is still quite limited.

For now, I’ve been able to notice subtitles for the following UHD films on Sky:

  • Barbie
  • Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie
  • The Flash
  • Gran Turismo: Based On A True Story

And I was able to find subtitles on just two TV shows: Mary & George, and Season 4 of True Detective.

There may be additional titles, but there’s no way to filter and find them all, other than to manually check each title.

Obviously, that’s not an impressive number of titles –  but at least it means that the elusive “technical issues” have been resolved, and having more 4K titles with subtitles is hopefully just a matter of time.

Sky’s Subtitle Shortfall

The journey towards comprehensive subtitle accessibility on Sky’s platforms has been fraught with challenges, not just on its newer UHD content but across its streaming services as well.

A glaring example of this was the early days of Sky’s NOW TV (now known as NOW) streaming service, which launched without any subtitle support whatsoever.

NOW entertainment TV mockup

It wasn’t until 2017 that subtitles were finally introduced, marking a significant delay in providing accessible content for all viewers (but NOW doesn’t support 4K content at all).

Moreover, up until this year, a notable gap remained in subtitle availability on NOW when accessed through YouView boxes, including the widely used BT TV’s 4K Pro TV box.

This meant that subscribers using these devices were left without access to subtitles on NOW, further marginalizing those who rely on them.

BT TV Box Pro with remote
BT TV Box Pro

This issue was finally addressed only this month, with subtitles now available on YouView boxes, marking another step towards full accessibility.

And then there’s the issue of subtitles on “recorded” shows on Sky Glass and Sky Stream.

Glass and Stream are based on streaming on-demand content via broadband, and don’t have direct recording capabilities, unlike Sky Q which has its own built-in hard drive.

Therefore, unlike Sky Q, where real-time subtitles can be recorded along with the programme, Sky’s streaming devices often fail to include subtitles on catch-up content from third-party channels (mostly Freeview channels) that lack a dedicated streaming app.

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2 thoughts on “Sky Adds 4K Subtitles As Customers Threaten To Cancel”

  1. It’s about time, I’ve been asking Sky Accessibility for years and their excuse is the film studios or broadcasters are not providing subtitles for UHD content, which is hard to believe.


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