Netflix Moves Forward with Controversial Variable Speed Playback Support

Feature that lets users slow down or speed up video has drawn criticism from filmmakers

Netflix has enabled users of its Android mobile app to slow down video playback by as much as 0.5 normal speed, and crank up the playback by as much as 1.5x.

The streaming company said it’s also testing the feature on its iOS and web apps.

“We’ve decided to press ahead for several reasons,” Netflix VP Keela Robinson said in a blog post. “Similar functionality has been available on DVD players and DVRs for years and the feature has been much requested by members. Most important of all, our tests show that consumers value the flexibility it provides whether it’s rewatching their favorite scene or slowing things down because they’re watching with subtitles or have hearing difficulties.”

Also read: Netflix Defends Variable Speed Playback Test

Netflix began testing the feature in October and it drew criticism from a number of high-profile filmmakers.

“Imagine writing a beautiful song about your mom and then your dad plays it to her on a turntable set at 78,” Judd Apatow tweeted. “And your mom never hears it at 45. And your dad says, ‘It’s OK. This is better. She’s busy.’ AND THE SONG SOUNDS LIKE S*** BECAUSE IT IS AT THE WRONG SPEED. That’s all.”

Robinson, however, cited support for the new feature from the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind, noting that some disabled users appreciate the ability to slow down such features as closed captioning.

She added that Netflix capped the maximum variable rates at 0.5 and 1.5 out of consideration to Hollywood’s creative community.

Netflix offers Android users four options: 0.5x, 0.75x, 1.25x and 1.5x.


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