Netflix Defends Variable Speed Playback Test

Response comes after Judd Apatow, Aaron Paul, Brad Bird and other Hollywood creatives criticized the streaming video company
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Netflix has defended its test of variable-speed playback on Android devices, following criticism from film and TV creatives.

“This is a mobile only test and gives people the ability to vary the speed at which they watch on phones or tablets—choosing from normal to slower (0.5X or 0.75X) or faster (1.25X and 1.5X),” explained Keela Robison, VP of product innovation for Netflix, in a blog post Tuesday. “It’s a feature that has long been available on DVD players—and has been frequently requested by our members. For example, people looking to rewatch their favorite scene or wanting to go slower because it’s a foreign language title.”

Judd Apatow tweeted his issues with the test on Monday: “Imagine writing a beautiful song about your mom and then your dad plays it to her on a turntable set at 78. And your mom never hears it at 45. And your dad says, ‘It’s OK. This is better. She’s busy.’ AND THE SONG SOUNDS LIKE S*** BECAUSE IT IS AT THE WRONG SPEED. That’s all.”

Aaron Paul and Brad Bird have also weighed in.

For its part, Robison said Netflix has not plans to actually roll out the variable speed feature in the short term.

“We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test,” she said. “We’ve also automatically corrected the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds. In addition, members must choose to vary the speed each time they watch something new—versus Netflix maintaining their settings based on their last choice.”

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