Netflix Plan to Test Varying Play Speeds Meets Filmmaker Backlash

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Judd Apatow

Viewers can increase or slow down the speed of Netflix shows and movies on their smartphones.

Netflix said Monday it is introducing a new test feature to allow viewers to either speed up or slow down content on their smartphones, a move that quickly gained criticism online from Judd Apatow and other filmmakers. 

Android Police first reported the new feature, showing a screen grab that allows a viewer to choose to slow down a show or film as much as 0.5 times the normal speed, or increase the speed up to 1.5 times the normal runtime. 

Apatow, who co-created the Netflix series Love, slammed the feature, tweeting, "No @Netflix no. Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this. Save me the time. I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t fuck with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen."

He added in a follow-up tweet, "Distributors don’t get to change the way the content is presented. Doing so is a breaking of trust and won’t be tolerated by the people who provide it. Let the people who don’t care put it in their contracts that they don’t care. Most all do."

"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," a Netflix spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. The feature would apply to all of the streamer's content.

A rep for the streamer later added that the test was only available to mobile Android users.

In a blog post, Netflix added that the feature "has been frequently requested by our members," saying the tool "has long been available on DVD players."

Viewers might want to use the feature if they were "looking to rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title," Netflix wrote.

"We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test," the streamer added. "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."

Netflix said it doesn't plan 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," it added.

Super Troopers filmmaker Jay Chandrasekhar and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse helmer Peter Ramsey also echoed Apatow's sentiments, and The Incredibles director Brad Bird tweeted, "Whelp— another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience. Why support & finance filmmakers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other???"

Oct. 29, 9:35 a.m.: This story has been updated with Netflix's blog post about the playback speed testing and an additional spokesperson's note that the test was just for mobile Android users.