Netflix Might Be Planning To Roll Out A Feature That Allows Users To Binge At Higher Speeds (Updated With Netflix Response)

Do you want to watch Jesse Pinkman run really, really fast in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie while testing his captors’ bonds? Or perhaps you simply feel overwhelmed by your overstuffed queue and, in turn, feel compelled to finish watching too-long episodes of bloated seasons without nearly enough time in this world. In either case, you may be in luck. Engadget has passed on word that Netflix is selectively testing a new feature that will allow users to speed through episodes in a more efficient manner. There’s probably a liquid-diet analogy to be had here, but I’ll skip those gruesome implications because this could be polarizing business.

Android Police (and later, Variety) was the first to report that they were tipped on the feature-in-testing and found some tweets from users who discovered the new capability on their Android-based apps. Here’s how this would allegedly work:

If you have it, you’ll get the option to slow down speed to 0.5x or 0.75x, or raise it to 1.25x or 1.5x. The former might be useful if you want to see a scene in slow-motion, are learning a language and want a leisurely pace to assimilate everything being said …. or if you’re addicted to Gilmore Girls; while the latter should be nice if you’re catching up on a slow documentary or re-watching a favorite show.

At this point, there’s been no official word from Netflix (we’ve updated with an official spokesperson statement, below) on this feature, which appears to be only testing in very limited instances right now. Surely though, this is something that some people would want, and speedier viewings will certainly allow Netflix to enjoy higher viewing numbers on their original programming. That’s a win for them, right? Still, creators of these series and films certainly won’t be happy about this decision, which could be seen as degrading their artistic vision, although it’s a reality that audiences are overwhelmed these days. People feel the pressure to keep up with cultural conversations inspired by these projects, and yes, some folks will welcome shortcuts.

In the alternative (and this is only a suggestion, so take it as you will), perhaps every series should only contain episodes that are 30 minutes or less, and maybe then, folks wouldn’t feel the need for more speed. Speaking of which, you should probably watch Paul Rudd in Living With Myself. It’s bite-sized, still manages to include two Paul Rudds, and serves as a wonderful meditation on human nature. No high-speed binging required.

UPDATE — 4:10pm EST: A Netflix spokesperson has reached out with this statement:

“We’re always experimenting with new ways to help members use Netflix. This test makes it possible to vary the speed at which people watch shows on their mobiles. As with any test, it may not become a permanent feature on Netflix.”

UPDATE — 11:50am EST: Netflix published a blog post following creator pushback (in the form of tweets from Judd Apatow, Aaron Paul, Pete Ramsey, and Brad Bird) about the speed-feature test in question. The streaming giant states in their response that they’ve tested several new user controls recently, including the one prompting concerns, and any new controls that might be implemented would be optional for users. Further, Netflix stresses that they are “sensitive to creator concerns” (that’s one reason for making this a mobile-only test) and currently have “no plans” to actually roll these features out for everyone while they assess feedback. Here’s the response in its entirety:

We regularly test new features that could help improve Netflix. In the last month, we’ve started testing several additional player controls, including the ability to: alter the brightness on your phone without going into settings; lock your screen and find your language and audio settings more easily; and vary the speed at which you watch on mobile.

This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback – both for and against. Given the questions being raised, I wanted to share more details about what’s happening.

This is a mobile only test and gives people the ability to vary the speed at which they watch on phones or tablets – choosing from normal to slower (0.5X or 0.75X) or faster (1.25X and 1.5X). It’s a feature that has long been available on DVD players – and has been frequently requested by our members. For example, people looking to rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title.

We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test. We’ve also automatically corrected the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds. In addition, members must choose to vary the speed each time they watch something new – versus Netflix maintaining their settings based on their last choice.

We have no plans to roll any of these tests out in the short term. And whether we introduce these features for everyone at some point will depend on the feedback we receive.

— Keela Robison, Vice President