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After months of testing, Netflix is joining myriad streaming services in adopting variable speed playback. Subscribers with Android phones will be able to watch programs at 0.5x, 0.75x, 1x, 1.25x, and 1.5x speeds. Creators have been dismayed with the feature since its testing, but advocates for those with hearing or vision loss say it's a win.
In officially rolling out variable speed playback, the company said consumer demand ultimately drove the decision to do so. In endorsements to The Verge, the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind also affirmed benefits such as making captions easier to read and allowing those who can only appreciate audio to listen at a faster pace.
"We’re always experimenting with new ways to help members use Netflix," a company spokesperson told Android Police in a statement. "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."
This is a terrible idea, and I and every director I know will fight against it.
Peyton Reed https://t.co/iPq10ywKfz
— Peyton Reed (@MrPeytonReed) October 28, 2019
While users were very excited about this feature, it faced backlash from creators, actors, and directors. In response, Netflix stated that it was engaging in long-term testing and feedback of these controls only on mobile, respecting creators' concerns by not including larger TVs. The technology automatically corrects voice pitch at different speeds and prevents users from setting a default playback rate for every video they watch.
The company says it will be testing variable speed playback for its web client and iOS. There are currently no plans to bring the feature to its TV app.
Stephen Schenck and Jules Wang contributed reporting.
- The Verge