Netflix May Be Introducing an Audio-Only Mode for Listening to Shows with the Screen Off

Netflix May Be Introducing an Audio-Only Mode for Listening to Shows with the Screen Off
Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski / Gizmodo

When I was younger I owned a handheld TV that had a mode where you could listen to broadcasts with the screen off, letting me secretly enjoy shows I wasn’t actually allowed to watch. According to Android Police, a similar feature is now being introduced for Netflix, essentially turning your favourite shows into audio-only podcasts.

The feature was first discovered back in late October by XDA Developers who found evidence of the new feature allowing video to be turned off after tearing down an Android APK file, but at the time it hadn’t been officially implemented as a usable feature in the Netflix app. The feature finally seems to be appearing for some subscribers in the form of a “Video On/Video Off” toggle button when using Netflix in full-screen mode. All of the standard video playback controls remain, but the screen remains black when video is turned off.

Android Police also discovered a new “Audio Only” section in the Netflix app’s settings which describes the mode with more detail “Listen to shows & movies while using other apps or when your screen is locked. Enjoy your favourites, and use less data, with the video turned off.” Tapping the option opens a sub-menu allowing users to specify when the “Video Off” mode is available. It can be always on, always off, or only presented when headphones or external speakers are being used.

Netflix is positioning the feature as a way to enjoy the streaming service’s content with minimal data usage, but it’s also an easy way to turn your favourite series into a podcast and binge a show in the car or other places where you can’t stare at a screen. Of course, turning off the video will probably work better for some shows than others. It will be great for documentaries, but not being able to actually see the awful reveals on a show like Nailed It! would probably spoil the enjoyment.