Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Speed bingeing: filmmakers slam Netflix's planned player control function

The new tool lets audiences speed up movies and films, much to filmmakers' dismay

Hollywood directors have slammed Netflix for proposed plans to allow users to control the speed they watch shows at. Courtesy Netflix 
Hollywood directors have slammed Netflix for proposed plans to allow users to control the speed they watch shows at. Courtesy Netflix 

Netflix is facing backlash for a new speed test feature that it is trialling on phones and tablets. The new function would mean that audiences can choose to speed through episodes at up to 1.5 times the usual pace, a feature that has long been available on YouTube, as well as DVD and digital media players.

However, the decision has provoked a fevered reaction from Hollywood's film and TV makers, as well as actors.

"No Netflix. Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this," Knocked Up director Judd Apatow wrote on Twitter. "Save me the time. I will win but it will take a ton of time. Don’t **** with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen."

Leave our shows and movies as they were intended to be seen.

Judd Apatow

Apatow has a number of shows and movies available regionally on the streaming network, including Judd Apatow: The Return, a stand-up comedy special from the director which is exclusive to Netflix, and indie sitcom series Love, he created for the site.

Apatow's sentiment was echoed by Bridesmaids director, Paul Feig, who commented on Apatow's post, writing, "[I] 100 per cent agree ... We don’t make movies and shows to simply deliver a plot the way the news is delivered. Our pacing and timing is part of who we are and what we do as filmmakers and storytellers. It’s how we entertain and affect. Please don’t take that control from us.

Some have poked fun at the fevered reaction of the directors. "Do I think a 1.5x speed on Netflix is a good idea? No. Is it deeply funny to me that the directors immediately up in arms about it are the one who make overlong two hour comedies? Well..." wrote culture journalist, Walter Hickey.

By why would you want to speed through a show? Some have suggested it's to binge watch at turbo speed, as competitive TV watching is a thing in 2019, especially when a new series drops. Others have suggested that it could be to speed through an episode that you're finding particularly dull, just to get it done and dusted. Alternatively, viewers watching a show in a foreign language could choose to watch a show in a slower speed.

The plans, should they be rolled out, would allow the audience to watch contect at 1.5 times faster or slower than the intended speed. Courtesy Netflix 
The plans, should they be rolled out, would allow the audience to watch contect at 1.5 times faster or slower than the intended speed. Courtesy Netflix

"It’s a feature that has long been available on DVD players," Netflix has said in a statement, "and has been frequently requested by our members."

Netflix's vice president, Keela Robison, explained the decision in a statement, saying, "We regularly test new features that could help improve Netflix. In the last month, we’ve started testing several additional player controls, including the ability to: alter the brightness on your phone without going into settings; lock your screen and find your language and audio settings more easily; and vary the speed at which you watch on mobile."

"This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback – both for and against," Robison admitted.

"We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test. We’ve also automatically corrected the pitch in the audio at faster and slower speeds," she adds.

With the new controls, members will have to change the speed each time, it will never default to the faster or slower pace.

Despite the volume of the protests from Hollywood's finest, there are no concrete plans to roll out the tests, at this stage they are simply being trialled on a number of shows. "Whether we introduce these features for everyone at some point will depend on the feedback we receive," says Robison.

Updated: October 30, 2019 11:56 AM

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