Speed Reads

no bad ideas?

Netflix defends variable playback speeds as a feature 'frequently requested' by users

Netflix's controversial variable playback idea isn't coming to the service just yet, but the company may not be hitting pause entirely.

The streaming platform published a blog post Tuesday responding to recent backlash over reports that it was testing a feature on Android devices that would allow subscribers to adjust the playback speed, either by making it faster or slower. Members of the film industry have been highly critical of the concept, with The Incredibles director Brad Bird blasting it as "another spectacularly bad idea" and Ant-Man director Peyton Reed tweeting, "every director I know will fight against it."

But Keela Robison, Netflix's vice president of product innovation, in the blog post said this has "long been available on DVD players — and has been frequently requested by our members." She then explained the appeal of watching content faster or slower than its creators intended, providing two examples in which it might be useful: when users are "looking to rewatch their favorite scene," and when users want a film to "go slower because it's a foreign language title."

Despite the Hollywood outcry, Robison also argues Netflix has been "sensitive to creator concerns," such as by not including televisions in the test and by automatically correcting audio to be in the right pitch. Still, she says Netflix will depend on "feedback" to determine whether to roll out the feature for all users, as right now, there are "no plans" to do so "in the short term."

Based on a tweet from Judd Apatow, Netflix can expect tons more of that feedback. Apatow, who urged Netflix to leave films and television shows "as they were intended to be seen," warned, "Don't make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this." He added, "I will win." It seems a whole new kind of streaming war may be on the horizon.