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Netflix offers a change of pace with new playback speed controls

Netflix is adding new playback controls for speed binging, or slower viewing of its hit shows.

Android users will now have the opportunity to stream shows at 1.25x or 1.5x speeds to whiz through content at an accelerated pace, or at 0.5x or 0.75x to enjoy shows at a more leisurely stroll.

The latter has been heralded why the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind. Deaf people, for example, will appreciate slowing down the content to give them more time to read the captions. Netflix also says that those watching films in another language will appreciate the change in pace, enabling them more time to keep up with the dialogue.

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“More than 80% of members use subtitles or closed captions at least once a month, with many of them reporting that they use dubs and subtitles to learn new languages. In the last two years, US viewing of non-English titles has increased by 33%,” Netflix says in an updated blog post.

The speeds will be opt-in per title, so you’ll have to manually change them each time you start a new show if you want to change the speeds. Netflix has also automatically corrected the “the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds.”

A smartphone playing S1:E2 of Blue Cat on Netflix showing variable playback speed options pop-up menu

Podcasts and audiobooks, for example, often offer similar controls to enable users to listen to episodes a little faster and get more in in the allotted time. This makes plenty of sense.

However, for video, this is a slightly different ballgame. We certainly understand the need for content to be slowed in some circumstances, but sped up? This might play into the psyche of those looking to binge shows as fast as humanly possible in order to get onto the next viral Netflix Original hit (not that there have been many of those lately).

Or, as Netflix says, it could prove useful for those hoping to rewatch their favourite scenes over and over. As for the quality off the experience, Netflix acknowledges content creators may be somewhat reluctant.

It adds: “We’ve also been mindful of the concerns of some creators. It’s why we have capped the range of playback speeds and require members to vary the speed each time they watch something new – versus fixing their settings based on the last speed they used. It’s also worth noting that extensive surveys of members across several countries who watched the same titles with or without the feature showed it didn’t impact their perceptions of the content’s quality. We’re constantly trying to make Netflix better – so it’s easier for people to find and enjoy great stories. We believe Mobile Playback Speeds is another small but meaningful step in that effort.”

It’s not clear when the controls will roll out to the wider viewing audience.

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