Corman’s Hidden Cost

Launched in early May, YouTube’s paid subscription channels offer studios a low-cost way to monetize recycled content. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, one federal equal access law is tripping up content producers with a hidden cost.

Signed into law in 2010 by President Obama, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act requires closed captioning for all television broadcasts posted on the Internet. (Short news clips are exempt.) While most shows already carry closed captions, TV content also must be specially coded for subscription video-on-demand, which is the mechanism by which YouTube delivers its fare.

Producers Roger Corman and Julie Corman, who run the B-movie channel Drive-In, estimate that closed captions will cost as much as $8 per minute for each 90-minute movie. “It’s an expense we had not calculated, but we have no choice,” said Roger Corman, the producer of such cult classics as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000.

Content providers have until March 2014 to comply with the mandate.

The Cormans aren’t alone in their frustration. Jill Newhouse Calcaterra of Cinedigm, which owns a subscription channel for docudramas, said the $500 to $600 price tag for closed captioning amounts to “a huge expense for us,” as well as “a huge undertaking involving a lot of manpower.”

The Video Accessibility Act benefits the 36 million Americans with hearing loss.

Studios who drag their feet on complying with the VAA could face legal action. In 2010, Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf, eventually reaching an agreement that requires the company to enhance all of its titles with closed captioning.