Netflix Responds to Playback Speed Backlash: ‘We’ve Been Sensitive to Creator Concerns’

“We have no plans to roll any of these tests out in the short term,” Netflix vice president Keela Robison wrote in blog post late Monday


Netflix has clarified its intentions with its test of allowing users to speed up or slow down content playback speeds, saying that the company has been sensitive to creator concerns with the feature and has no plans to roll out a new feature in the short term.

Netflix vice president Keela Robison wrote in a blog post late Monday that the ability to vary playback speeds on Netflix shows or movies — as slow as half the original speed or 1.5 times faster — is a test limited only to Android mobile devices and is a feature that has frequently been requested by users.

“We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test,” Robison wrote. “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.”

The backlash started after filmmakers like Judd Apatow and “El Camino” star Aaron Paul took to Twitter to say that the feature was an example of taking away art from creators and making content available in ways that creators never intended to be seen.

“There is NO WAY @netflix will move forward with this. That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it. Netflix is far better than that,” Paul said in a tweet Monday.

Robison explains that varying playback speeds is one of several mobile features Netflix has recently tested and has been frequently requested by members, either to allow people to re-watch a favorite scene or for the purpose of playing something at a slower speed because it’s a foreign language title. However, a Netflix spokesperson clarifies that permanently implementing any feature depends heavily on feedback from both users and talent.

Robison adds that audio and pitch have been corrected at faster and slower speeds, and users must choose to vary the speed each time rather than have it default to that setting. Further, the playback speed test is one of several functions Netflix is testing for how content is displayed on your phone, including adjusting the brightness on your screen and changing audio and language settings more easily.

In a statement from a Netflix spokesperson on Monday, the company clarified that while any test would not necessarily become permanent, the feature would apply to all content on the site.

Judd Apatow, who is behind the Netflix series “Love,” said introducing this feature represented a breach of trust and would have to be included in director’s contracts.

“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 f— with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen,” Apatow said in a 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.”

Varying playback speeds is a function frequently found available on DVD players and when playing podcasts, and other tech companies such as YouTube have also made use of the feature.

Read Netflix’s full blog post here.