Netflix is experimenting with a new option to make binge-watching even faster: variable speed playback. The streaming service is considering an option that would allow some users to watch their TV shows or movies at higher speeds, making it faster than ever to finish a whole season in a day. It sounds like the feature may not roll out all at once, however.
Fans of podcasts and audiobooks are likely familiar with variable speed playback, which is a popular option on most audio-only apps. For those that like to digest information slowly or have a hard time hearing, they can slow the speed down to 0.5x (half-speed,) while those that need to cram the content quickly can bring it up to 1.5x, or even 2x (double-speed.)
Now, that may be an option with video content as well. As first reported by Android Police, Netflix is testing variable speed playback options on its IOS app. Assuming testing goes well and the feature is popular with focus groups, Android users may be the first to get the option.
As reports about the testing circulated, Netflix issued a statement, confirming that the experiment was underway, but noting that there is no guarantee it will lead to anything permanent.
"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," a company spokesperson said.
So far, there is no word on when variable speed playback might be available on Android's Netflix app, or other operating systems. According to a report by PC Mag, there has been no word of testing for this feature on other platforms. Netflix has catered to mobile users more and more, enabling content downloads and other features for watching on your phone.
Variable speed playback is nothing new. It is a standard feature on YouTube's video player, where users can choose between a speed a slow as 0.25x and as fast as 2x. It does tend to make videos pause to buffer, especially in areas with poor WiFi service, but this can be remedied by turning the video quality down.
However, variable speed playback may not be as universally popular with video as it is with audio. The option to speed up an audiobook is huge for students, who can cram in a whole textbook or assigned reading while doing chores or working with their hands. For video, there may be less of a demand.
The option could still prove popular in some situations. Fans who are frustrated with the pacing of a show might like to speed through the slow bits, while action-heavy scenes might benefit from a slower playback speed, allowing viewers to appreciate the choreography.
On the other hand, this could put too much power in the hands of the viewer, as creators do tend to plan their pacing carefully. The effect of great dramas might be lost if the characters are suddenly delivering monologues at twice their normal speed.
Stay tuned for updates on Netflix's experiments with variable speed playback options.