Netflix responds to backlash over variable playback speed test

Netflix responded to the uproar caused by its test of variable playback speeds late Tuesday, pointing out in a blog post that similar features had long been available on DVD players. The company also said that it had no immediate plans to make the feature available to all of its members.

The streaming service recently began testing variable playback speeds with a small subset of its users on Android. After word about the test got out, Netflix received harsh criticism from a number of creatives, including Judd Apatow, Aaron Paul, and Brad Bird.

“No. That’s not how it works. Distributors don’t get to change the way the content is presented,” Apatow tweeted on Monday.

“This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback – both for and against,” admitted Netflix vice president Keela Robison in the company’s blog post. “We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test.”

Netflix also explained that it was automatically correcting the pitch of a movie’s or TV show’s audio when sped up or slowed down with the tested feature. What’s more, Netflix’s app doesn’t allow users who are part of the test group to set a different playback speed setting as their default. Instead, they have to change the setting every single time.

Robison argued in her blog post that the feature could help users who are watching a title in a foreign language, or users who want to watch their favorite scene to catch additional details. She also said that the feature had been frequently requested by the company’s subscribers, and promised that Netflix would take any feedback into account before deciding whether to add variable playback speeds as a feature to its new app.

Netflix regularly tests a wide range of features with subsets of its audience. The playback speed test is part of an ongoing series of tests of player features, according to a company spokesperson. Other features tested include easier access to screen brightness, the ability to watch videos with a locked screen, and other advanced playback controls.