Netflix has more content on its platform than any of us would be able to consume in a lifetime, even if we had nothing else to do with our time. Binge-watching has already become a staple for many consumers, but what if we could get through movies and TV shows even faster? That's something Netflix is looking at, as the company is said to be testing a variable playback feature that will allow subscribers to play content at a speed of their choosing.

According to a new report, Netflix has been testing this variable playback feature on Android devices. For the time being, it seems to be on a relatively limited number of devices and doesn't seem to be available via apps on smart TVs, gaming consoles or other devices that are frequently utilized to watch content. The feature is accessible via the same menu where subtitles can be turned on and allows users to either slow down content, playing it at .5 or .75 speed, or speed it up to either 1.25 or 1.5 speed. That means, in theory, someone could get through a two-hour movie in 80 minutes.

For those who have used most podcast apps, or an audiobook service such as Audible, a feature such as this should seem familiar. The key difference here is that Netflix is dealing with visual mediums. Listening to a long book a little faster (or slower) can help someone adjust to their personal reading speed. Movies or TV, on the other hand, were made to be viewed in a certain way. Speeding them up or slowing them down could end up messing with the intended experience. Undoubtedly, many content creators would have thoughts on the matter.

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From the company's side of things, this could help keep people viewing content, and more of it, on their service. That could become much more crucial in the coming months, as the streaming landscape is about to become much more competitive, with Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock, amongst others, entering the space. Netflix currently has 150 million subscribers worldwide, but with all these other services offering attractive content, they will need to get creative to keep everyone's attention. This is one way to do that, though it could also go a long way in damaging the attention spans of viewers.

Netflix has been attracting top-notch creators such as Martin Scorsese to make content for them, with The Irishman set to arrive this month. But Scorsese, a man who has been making it known he doesn't consider Marvel movies to be cinema, is deeply trying to preserve the cinematic experience. One has to think Scorsese won't love the idea of viewers watching his 3 and a half hour gangster epic on 1.5 playback speed just to get through it faster. It's possible this feature won't ever be made widely available, but at this point, it's at least a possibility. This news comes to us via Android Police.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott