Netflix is reportedly experimenting with allowing viewers to control time

The Verge reports:

Netflix is letting people choose the speed at which they want to watch something on their phone or tablet with new playback controls.

Netflix will allow anyone on an Android mobile device to stream at either 0.5x or 0.75x speeds for slowed-down viewing and 1.25x or 1.5x speeds for faster watching. Those are slightly fewer options than YouTube, which allows people to slow all the way down to 0.25x speeds, and speed up by twice the normal playback speed. Playback speed options are also available on downloaded titles that people have saved for offline viewing.

Netflix had previously announced this plan back in October 2019, which promptly pissed some people off.

A spokesperson for Netflix assured The Verge that they've "been mindful of the concerns of some creators," which is why they've "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."

I'll admit: I sometimes listen to podcasts or audiobooks at slightly sped up rates, usually 1.2x or 1.25x. I also know some people who are 2x podcast purists. This never struck me as being a particularly egregious offense to the thoughtful and diligent creators behind this audio content; if anything, it helps to keep my hypomanic mind engaged. Even in my work as a playwright, I often find myself encouraging actors to speed up their lines, instead of being precious over every single syllable.

That being said, I find the notion of a sped-up film or TV show to be completely off-putting. For one thing, there's the uncanny valley factor — the strange sensation of watching the eerily unnatural motions of a fast-moving person on the screen like they're perpetually trapped in a Ben Shapiro podcast video and trying to escape (someone really needs to teach that guy about frame rates. also facts and logic). There's also the fact that audio-visual mediums like TV and film are all about the director's complete control of the narrative; the whole point of them, compared to other storytelling mediums, is that the audience gets to sit there and passively receive a fully immersive experience that dictates what to look at, and when, and for how long. Otherwise, what's to separate film/TV from a video game, or even from a book or graphic novel, where the readers' control over time is an intrinsic part of the experience?

The answer, I suspect, is that Netflix wants to collect data, which they can sell, and/or use to shape the future of storytelling based on some reductive marketing perception of psychological behavior patterns. Maybe the ultimate endgoal is to truly break down the barriers between all these different mediums, until all that's left is CONTENT.

Netflix is letting people watch things faster or slower with new playback speed controls [Julia Alexander / The Verge]

Netflix wants to let people watch things at twice the speed, but Hollywood is pushing back [Julia Alexander / The Verge]

Image: Taro the Shiba Inu / Flickr (CC 2.0)