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Content creators – such as actors, writers, and directors – are not thrilled about the new Netflix playback speed feature. Why not? Because it allows videos to be watched on fast-forward, and no creative has ever made a film or show meant to be watched at anything other than normal speed. The feature was deployed quietly by the streaming giant but tech-savvy users began tweeting about the new feature around mid-October. A number of users delight in the idea. After all, how much time can be saved binge-watching a series on fast-forward?  But for the content creators and creatives, it’s a different story. Creatives call the feature “another spectacularly bad idea” and implementing it is a “breaking of trust.”

Who’s right and who’s wrong? That’s hard to say, but what isn’t hard to say is that this might be the latest case of technology killing art.

Netflix playback speed, Reed Hastings quoted.
Netflix continues to compete with remote controls.

How Fast or How Slow – It’s the Users’ Call

Netflix users are undeniably a force to reckon with. With over 150 million subscribers globally, the company is perpetually on the lookout for ways to improve user experience. How do you keep such an expansive customer base engaged and happy? The Netflix playback speed feature was a result of the company’s relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction.

Users have been looking for a way to watch more content but couldn’t get around the lack of time. For some, binge-watching doesn’t work. There are users who prefer to watch one or two episodes just so they can join in the watercooler conversations. The Netflix playback speed is the seeming answer to these requirements. With this feature, users can cut down as much as half the time watching their favorite shows. From normal to slower (0.5X or 0.75X) or faster (1.25X and 1.5X) – it’s indeed the users’ call.

Additionally, there is no fixed speed setting all throughout the content– meaning the users can switch back to normal settings at any time. Moreover, there is no way to save in the profile the speed setting. Thus, each content will at normal speed, unless manually changed. There were concerns about the audio quality when speed settings are changed. With the Netflix playback speed, the company has made adjustment to the audio setting. This means that speed adjustments will not modify the pitch of the content’s audio.

Netflix playback speed, Keela Robison quoted.
Netflix is still exploring and learning; weighing positive and negative feedback. 

Creatives Express Dismay over Netflix Playback Speed

Without a doubt, the impetus behind the testing of the playback speed feature is the pursuit of providing the best possible user experience.  More so, Netflix has been accumulating a vast collection of content. Regrettably, due to lack of time, the majority of the users have not yet maximized their access to these materials.

However, content creators are expressing dismay over the Netflix playback speed feature. For the creatives and content creators, Netflix should not interfere with the timing of the content. Moreover, altering the timing is akin to changing the presentation of the content. Should the deployment of the feature pushes through, Netflix is adding “another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience”.

Between User Experience and Deference to the Art Form

With the Netflix playback speed, the streaming giant is in a bit of pickle. On one hand, Netflix has to continuously look for ways to improve customer experience. However, a collaborative and robust relationship with the creatives is also necessary. How else can Netflix provide engaging and interesting content if not for the creatives and content creators? Gaining the ire of the creative community does not help the company either.

As the debate rages between those who are for and against the idea, Netflix must find the right balance. Between providing the best user experience and ensuring that the content creators get proper recognition, Netflix has no time to chill.

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