Since the Netflix streaming service was introduced in Denmark in late 2012 it has quickly risen to become the sixth most popular ‘TV channel’ in the nation.
But as an increasing number of Danes continue to binge-watch award-winning series such as ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Breaking Bad’, the service has been continually lambasted for having inferior Danish subtitles.
Amalie Foss, the head of the translator association Forum for Billedmedieoversættere, believes that the poor subtitles are down to Netflix paying low wages to inexperienced subtitlers.
“I have been contacted three times by young people who have asked my advice after they’ve been offered five dollars [27 kroner] per media play minute to translate material for streaming services,” Foss told the journalism magazine Journalisten. “That’s the lowest I’ve heard about in the business.”
Get what you pay for
Foss went on to explain that a translator can typically manage between four to eight playing minutes in one hour, although far from everyone can reach the eight-minute mark.
“That means that many of the subtitlers for Netflix end up working for 100 kroner an hour,” Foss argued, adding that good subtitling jobs pay 70-80 kroner per playing minute.
The poor subtitle quality has prompted many customers to file complaints on the consumer site Trustpilot.dk, and Eskil Hein, a subtitler for Dansk Video Tekst, has noticed the lacking Netflix subtitles.
“In series like ‘House of Cards’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Arrested Development’, the subtitle exposure times are far, far below the norm for Danish TV subtitles,” Hein told Journalisten. “Two full lines can be on screen for less than two seconds while titles and short text can flicker on and off in half a second so even the quickest readers can’t follow along.”
Danes paying more for less
Aside from the dubious subtitles, Netflix has also been criticised for the lack of material it has available in Denmark compared to the US.
According to metroXpress newspaper, Netflix customers in the US enjoy four times more much material than their Danish counterparts. Netflix in Denmark offers 1,962 titles while in the US there are 7,855 titles to choose from.
At the same time, Danish Netflix customers have to pay a much higher fee (79 kroner per month) compared to US customers, who pay the equivalent of about 50 kroner a month.
“Due to licencing limits on film and TV series, we are forced to implement a geographic filter," Joris Evers, Netflix’s head of international communication, told metroXpress. "The higher price compared to the US is down to higher expenses, including VAT.”