Variable playback speed is an invaluable feature for those of us who want to consume the most content in the littlest time possible. Many podcast players and video players support it, and now Netflix is joining the fray. The service is testing playback speed controls on Android.
We were first tipped about this feature today, but looking at mentions of it online, we found two tweets about it from a few days ago and more than a week ago. The sparsity of the reports and the fact that we don't have the option yet on any device indicate this may be a limited server-side test.
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.
The three reports we've spotted were all on Android, but the feature may also be in testing on Android TV, iOS, web, or other platforms.
Netflix has confirmed that variable-speed playback control is currently in testing. A company spokesperson told Android Police:
"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"
While users were very excited about this feature, it faced a lot of backlash from creators, actors, and directors. In response, Netflix has published another clarification, stating that playback speed controls are part of several tests it started this month. (The others were minor and much less controversial.) The company reiterated that it's only testing these controls on mobile and respecting creators' concerns by not including larger TVs, automatically correcting pitch at different speeds, and not allowing the setting to become a default — it has to be set for every video.
Netflix also gently reminded everyone that every DVD player on the planet has these playback controls (I'd add VHS players, CD players, YouTube, most podcast players, etc...) and that they can be handy when watching a foreign-language film, for example.
Finally the company made this non-commital statement:
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.