Innovation29 October 2019
Updated Oct. 12, 2020: This feature is now available on iOS.
Updated July 31, 2020: Following last year’s test, which was well received by our members, we’re rolling this feature out across Android mobile, and will start to test it on iOS and the Web. Playback Speed control enables members to choose from normal to slower (0.5X or 0.75X) or faster (1.25X and 1.5X) watch speeds on their phones, tablets, and laptops.
Features like skip intro, play next episode and variable playback speeds can be sensitive within the creative community so we are always careful to test them first and listen carefully to the feedback.
We’ve decided to press ahead for several reasons. Similar functionality has been available on DVD players and DVRs for years and the feature has been much requested by members. Most important of all, our tests show that consumers value the flexibility it provides whether it’s rewatching their favorite scene or slowing things down because they’re watching with subtitles or have hearing difficulties.
- The National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind have both welcomed this feature. People who are deaf and have difficulty reading appreciate the option of slowing down the captioning, and people who are hard of hearing value the ability to listen at slower speeds - while many individuals who are vision impaired are used to listening to digital audio much faster (for example with screen readers).
- More than 80% of members use subtitles or closed captions at least once a month, with many of them reporting that they use dubs and subtitles to learn new languages. In the last two years, US viewing of non-English titles has increased by 33%.
We’ve also been mindful of the concerns of some creators. It’s why we have capped the range of playback speeds and require members to vary the speed each time they watch something new - versus fixing their settings based on the last speed they used. It’s also worth noting that extensive surveys of members across several countries who watched the same titles with or without the feature showed it didn’t impact their perceptions of the content’s quality.
We’re constantly trying to make Netflix better - so it’s easier for people to find and enjoy great stories. We believe Mobile Playback Speeds is another small but meaningful step in that effort.
Published Oct. 28, 2019: 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. Given the questions being raised, I wanted to share more details about what’s happening.
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). 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.
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. 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.
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.
-- Keela Robison, Vice President