Netflix adds playback controls for speeding up or slowing down videos

Netflix will roll out a new feature which allows subscribers to speed up or slow down playback of shows and movies, according to a report from The Verge.

The function will first be available to all users of the Netflix Android app, although the company also plans to start testing it for iOS devices and the web.

The speed playback adjustment enables subscribers to slow down video to 0.5 or 0.75 times the original speed, or to speed it up by 1.25 or 1.5 times.

Viewers will also be able to change the playback speed in previously downloaded titles.

Netflix first revealed it was testing speed adjustment for content on its platform in 2019, an announcement which was met with backlash from the film industry.

Various role players in the industry believed the move would undermine the creative visions of movie and tv show makers.

Director and producer Judd Apatow was notably unhappy with the feature, stating that distributors like Netflix “can’t change the way content is presented”.

Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul at the time said he believed there was no chance that Netflix would move forward with this feature.

“That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it. Netflix is far better than that,” Paul said.

Animation feature heavyweight Brad Bird called it a “spectacularly bad idea” and asked why Netflix supports and finances filmmakers’ visions on one hand and destroy the presentation on the other.

Netflix explains benefits

However, Netflix has said it has been mindful of the concerns of creators, which is why it has limited the range of possible playback speeds.

By comparison, YouTube offers an option for playback down to 0.25 or up to 1.75 times the original video speed.

The user also has to opt in to the adjusted speed every time they watch a new title or episode, as opposed to having the speed setting fixed after first selecting it.

Netflix’s vice president of product innovation Keela Robison explained that speed playback control was highly requested by subscribers for years.

“Most important of all, our tests show that consumers value the flexibility it provides whether it’s rewatching their favourite scene or slowing things down because they’re watching with subtitles or have hearing difficulties,” Robison noted.

Netflix has been lauded for the feature by two US organisations representing people with disabilities – the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind.

With the captions slowed down to correspond with the scenes, it would help deaf or hearing-impaired persons to be able to read the subtitles at a more comfortable speed.

The National Federation of the Blind has also commended the speeding up feature, and explained that many members of the blind community are able to “understand and appreciate audio played at a much faster pace than what might be comfortable for most sighted people”.

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