Netflix Adds Playback Speed Settings, So Now I Can Burn Through My Backlog 1.5 Times Faster

Netflix Adds Playback Speed Settings, So Now I Can Burn Through My Backlog 1.5 Times Faster
Photo: Olivier Douliery, Getty Images

I’m about to blow through The Umbrella Academy season 2 in record time, you guys.

Netflix is rolling out new options to let users binge content at faster and slower speeds, the streaming giant announced in a blog update on Friday after confirming the news to the Verge. Beginning this weekend, Android mobile users can choose between 0.5x or 0.75x speeds for slowed-down viewing and 1.25x or 1.5x speeds if they want to zip through their to-watch list. Playback speed controls are also available on downloaded titles too, so you can adjust the speed whether you’re online or offline.

It’s the kind of thing that’s been available on DVRs and DVD players for years, but it’s only now beginning to creep into the streaming world. Netflix’s VP of product innovation, Keela Robison, said in Friday’s post that the feature “has been frequently requested” and “well received” by Netflix users so far. She added that variable-speed playback capability has been supported by the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind.

“People who are deaf and have difficulty reading appreciate the option of slowing down the captioning, and people who are hard of hearing value the ability to listen at slower speeds – while many individuals who are vision impaired are used to listening to digital audio much faster (for example with screen readers),” Robison wrote.

Netflix began testing variable-speed playback controls last year, an announcement that sparked a huge outcry from Hollywood. Several industry members, including actor Aaron Paul and director Judd Apatow, denounced Netflix’s decision and argued that such a feature would impact their content’s integrity and allow distributors too much control over how their work is presented.

In response, Netflix said that it was incorporating several measures to remain “sensitive to creator concerns.” According to a company blog post at the time, Netflix purposefully avoided testing the feature for televisions and other big screens and the team ensured “the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds” would correct automatically to preserve the content’s quality.

In that same vein, playback speeds settings don’t carry over to every title, unlike other accessibility features like captions. That way users will never click to their favourite show and accidentally watch a sped-up or slowed-down version.

“We’ve also been mindful of the concerns of some creators,” a Netflix spokesperson told the Verge. “It’s why we have capped the range of playback speeds and require members to vary the speed each time they watch something new — versus fixing their settings based on the last speed they used.”

The feature’s limited to Android users for now and will roll out globally in the coming weeks. Netflix said it’s poised to begin testing playback speed controls on iOS devices and the app’s web version for an eventual release depending on the response from both the creative community and subscribers, according to the Verge.