• Online outcry over Netflix trial to vary playback speed
  • Trial was rolled out to some Android mobile devices
  • Netflix VP: Feature has been “frequently requested”

watching screen netflix credit pixinoo shutterstock

Netflix: Trialling speed viewing, criticised by directors

Source: Pixinoo / Shutterstock

Netflix has responded to criticism from filmmakers over a feature it has been testing that allows viewers to vary the speed at which they watch TV and films.

A raft of directors have decried the option, which lets some viewers slow content down by 0.5x or 0.75x or, increase it by 1.25x and 1.5x.

The mobile-only test was rolled out to a limited number of Android devices users.

Director Judd Apatow led a chorus of online disapproval, with the Knocked Up and Superbad director tweeting: “Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this…I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t fuck with our timing.”

In response, Netflix vice president of product innovation Keela Robison explained the rationale behind the test.

She said Netflix regularly tests features and that in the last month it has trialled several new player controls, including the ability to alter the brightness on a phone without going into settings, find language and audio settings more easily and vary the speed at which you watch on mobile.

And she there had been “a fair amount of feedback – both for and against” the playback speed feature.

She said: “It’s a feature that has long been available on DVD players - and has been frequently requested by our members. For example, people looking to rewatch their favourite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title.

“We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test. We’ve also automatically corrected the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds. In addition, members must choose to vary the speed each time they watch something new - versus Netflix maintaining their settings based on their last choice.”

She confirmed that Netflix has “no plans to roll any of these tests out in the short term. And whether we introduce these features for everyone at some point will depend on the feedback we receive.”