This week, some Netflix customers on Android devices discovered an experimental new feature: a variable playback setting. Netflix already offers viewers a variety of options for rewinding, fast-forwarding, or skipping through content; however, Netflix customers have never had the option to adjust the playback speed before.
As Netflix loses customers and raises prices, the company has begun to experiment with new features. In addition to Netflix’s award-winning original content, the company has also begun testing weekly releases for certain shows. This fall, two Netflix shows, The Great British Baking Show and the hip-hop competition Rhythm + Flow, released one episode per week, even though the company pioneered the concept of binge-watching.
Now, Android Police has confirmed that Netflix is testing variable playback options on some Android devices. The feature is not yet widely available, which means this is most likely a limited server-side test that could end at any time. Sharp-eyed Android users have tweeted about the change as early as October 16. The new feature gives viewers the ability to slow down or increase the playback speed. Android users with access to the test can slow down content to 0.5x or 0.75x speed. They can also increase the playback rate to 1.25x or 1.5x. On October 28, a Netflix representative confirmed to Android Police that the feature is in limited testing.
“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.”
While video streaming customers may not be used to variable playback options, it’s a familiar feature for audiophiles. Audiobook and podcast lovers often increase their playback speed to listen to more content more quickly. At 1.5x speed, listeners can finish a 60-minute podcast in 45 minutes — without sacrificing the overall audio experience. And, as many critics have pointed out, some Netflix Original Series have a tendency to drag in the middle. A variable playback option would allow viewers to zip through the Stranger Things subplots that don’t hold their full attention. That being said, it’s unlikely that master directors like Martin Scorsese will be thrilled about users adjusting their painstakingly created work of art, even if his new Netflix film The Irishman has a 3.5-hour runtime.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that this new feature will ever be rolled out to all Netflix customers. Netflix does have a strong incentive to improve their user experience, as 2019 has been a difficult year for the streaming giant. As new streaming services launch, Netflix is consistently losing market share. In early 2018, Netflix had a commanding 72% of the streaming market. By mid-2019, its market share had dropped to 65%. And when Disney+ launches in November, Netflix’s customer base — and stock price — will likely take another major hit.
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Source: Android Police
Timothy Beck Werth