Netflix Faces Hollywood Backlash over Speed Options Allowing Users to Play Content Faster or Slower

ROME, ITALY - OCTOBER 08: Reed Hastings attends the Netflix & Mediaset Partnership Announcement, Rome, 8th October 2019. (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images / Netflix)
Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images / Netflix

Netflix has incurred the wrath of some of Hollywood’s most prominent filmmakers — including Judd Apatow and Brad Bird — after the streamer reportedly began testing a new feature that will allow subscribers to play content at variable speeds.

A Netflix spokesperson said the new feature is being tested among a limited group of mobile users and may not necessarily roll out to all subscribers.

“We’re always looking for new ways to help our fans enjoy content they love, so we’re testing playback speed options on mobile devices,” the spokesperson told Variety. “Our tests generally vary in how long they run for and in which countries they run in, and they may or may not become permanent features on our service.”

Details of the new functionality are sketchy but the site Android Police reported that users will have the option to slow down speed to 0.5 or 0.75 times normal, or raise it to 1.25 or 1.5 times normal.

“The former might be useful if you want to see a scene in slow-motion, are learning a language and want a leisurely pace to assimilate everything being said,” the site reported. “The latter should be nice if you’re catching up on a slow documentary or re-watching a favorite show.”

Apatow, the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, blasted Netflix and threatened to rally fellow filmmakers against the new feature.

“Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this. Save me the time. I will win but it will take a ton of time,” he wrote on Twitter. “Don’t fuck with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen.”

Brad Bird, the director of such Pixar animated hits as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, also lashed out at Netflix via Twitter.

“Whelp— another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience,” Bird wrote. “Why support & finance filmmakers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other???”

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed also voiced his displeasure, calling the new feature a “terrible idea.”

Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul said the new functionality would allow Netflix to take control “of everyone else’s art and [destroy] it. Netflix is far better than that. Am I right Netflix?”

The actor later added: “I love Netflix. Always have. Always will. This simply can not be true. That is all. No way will they destroy the art they have on their platform. Plain and simple.”

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