Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Netflix responds to backlash over playback speed control tests

Illustration for article titled Netflix responds to backlash over playback speed control tests
Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Over the last few days, Netflix has been hit with one of those dumb Netflix controversies it faces every few months, where it tests some bad feature that everyone hates, chooses not to implement the bad feature, and then it moves on to the development of some other bad feature (like commercials in between TV show episodes). This time around, the bad feature was a system for playback speed controls—as seen on every podcast app—which would allow users to pitch the speed of whatever they’re watching up or down depending on if they’re in a hurry or really want their content to draaaaag. Several people who make Content immediately and loudly rejected this idea, with Aaron Paul suggesting that Netflix isn’t stupid enough to move forward with a feature like that because it would mean “completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it,” and Judd Apatow vowing to “call every director and show creator on Earth” to fight Netflix if he had to.


Now, though, Netflix has done what Netflix does and assured everyone that this was just a harmless test and that it would never do anything that everyone hates (a claim that’s a little harder to buy when Netflix seems to have no intention of disabling the annoying “feature” that auto-plays stuff if you hang on it for over a second). In a blog post, Netflix’s vice president Keela Robison said that the playback speed controls are only available on Android mobile devices and that it’s something that “has been frequently requested” by users (Netflix cites “people looking to rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title”). Also, to make it seem less objectionable, Netflix notes that it purposefully hasn’t tried testing this on TVs and automatically corrects the pitch of the audio when moving at different speeds, so nothing weird or silly would theoretically happen. Plus, Netflix doesn’t save your speed settings when you go from one thing to another, so it always resets to the default speed and forces users to actively choose something faster or slower if they want it.

Netflix says that it has “no plans” to roll this out on a larger scale, and any decisions they make will be based on “the feedback we receive.” So, if everyone really does hate this, it probably won’t happen (though, again, the auto-playing trailers and stuff are really annoying and they’re sticking around). Also, this is a really low-stakes issue so who cares, but Netflix does show a hint of “I’m sorry you were offended”-ism by pointing out that DVD players have been allowing users to adjust playback speeds for a long time, though that would only really be applicable here if it were the Android phones that were doing this and not Netflix.