A few nights ago Peter Bregman was watching a show with his daughter and attempted to change a setting on the television to get rid of the subtitles.

“She said ‘don’t’,” said Mr Bregman, who lives in New York. They had watched a Harry Potter film with subtitles and moved on to slapstick sketches by The Three Stooges — all were already in English. His daughter was one of many new fans of watching film and television with the dialogue playing at the bottom of the screen.

Advocates for subtitles now find that they are pushing at an open door. “It’s a generational change,” Larry Goldberg, head of accessibility at Verizon Media, told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr Goldberg was a pioneer in the effort to create captioning systems for digital television. He developed a patented system for cinemas and theme parks and chaired a federal committee that helped draft legislation to ensure that new media was accessible to people with hearing impairments.

Now he often finds it is unnecessary to remind producers to include subtitles: their viewers demand it. “It’s gone mainstream, and when I started in this business, I would never have imagined this,” he said.

Some trace the rise of viewing with subtitles to sprawling, complex television series such as The Sopranos, or The Wire, whose writers strove to capture the dialects of suburban New Jersey, or the patter of drug dealers in west Baltimore. The habit appears to have spread as more viewers began watching films on devices in noisy public places.

“It’s a must for me, and I love it,” said one commentator, during a discussion about subtitles on Reddit. “I feel like I get more out of the dialogue and the film as a whole. When watching something like Game of Thrones … I think it really helps nail down all the characters as well.” Another agreed, noting that it was odd “considering it’s the exact opposite with books. I would rather listen to a book than read one.”

Mr Bregman, 48, a marketing and creative director, thought his daughter, who is nine, liked watching with subtitles because “kids like to read stuff”. He also felt that a generation of viewers were now used to “going through Facebook, seeing videos pop up. A lot of times people are looking at stuff as they’re scrolling, they’re not listening to the video.”