October 28, 2019

Netflix Testing Various Playback Speeds Pisses Off Some Filmmakers

Filmmakers like Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse's Peter Ramsey are not fans of Netflix's plan to test drive various playback speeds for subscribers. 

Last week, we learned that Netflix was actively testing various playback speeds that would allow subscribers to speed up or slow down content on their smartphones -- that would let them binge shows and movies faster or slower than the standard playback speed. (SMDH). Users weren't the only ones rightfully questioning that idea of the streamer streaming content at a different rate than its creators intended -- filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Peter Ramsey took to social media recently to voice their concern and displeasure. 

Apatow, the co-creator of Netflix's Love series, slammed the feature, tweeting "No @Netflix no. 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. Don’t fuck with our timing. We give you nice things. Leave them as they were intended to be seen." He added:

Apatow continued by saying "Distributors don’t get to change the way the content is presented. Doing so is a breaking of trust and won’t be tolerated by the people who provide it. Let the people who don’t care put it in their contracts that they don’t care. Most all do."

Joining Apatow were Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Oscar-winner Ramsay, whose Spider-Verse is currently streaming on the platform. Bird tweeted: "Whelp— another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience. Why support & finance filmmakers visions on one hand and then work to destroy the presentation of those films on the other???"

But the best, and most succinct, was Ramsay's chef's kiss of a tweet: "Fu** that sh**, @Netflix."

Netflix did not respond to our request for comment as of press time, and neither did the aforementioned filmmakers. But, in a statement to THR, a rep for Netflix said: "We’re always experimenting with new ways to help members use Netflix. This test makes it possible to vary the speed at which people watch shows on their mobiles. As with any test, it may not become a permanent feature on Netflix." 

What You Can Learn

As streamers become more prominent and powerful in the space of how we receive our content, experiments like this will be attempted and hopefully shutdown given the deserved backlash. Whether you are privileged to have the level of creative success filmmakers like the above enjoy, or are working your way currently to secure it, your vision -- and how it is to be experienced -- should not be determined or altered by the platform hosting it. 

Netflix's carefully-worded statement defends their choice in the name of research and "we're always innovating." Not apologizing or acknowledging and validating the concerns of high-profile filmmakers -- with access to even bigger talent that Netflix is attracted to -- is only making a problematic situation worse. As hills to die on go, this may feel like small potatoes. At the same time, you -- and the filmmakers here -- worked too hard for too long to be invalidated this way and have their material submitted to the manipulations of a streamer. Hopefully, filmmakers will win this one. Netflix doesn't have much of a leg to stand on here.

But now that this is out there, one has to wonder what other streamers like Hulu or Amazon Prime are doing in this R & D space. Movies and TV shows are largely easily digestible in their current formats and run times. To mess with that, and to upset the creators of that content, that makes things different or worse. Not better.

And the best is what both viewer and creator deserve. 

Would you want your content sped up or slowed down at the mercy of whomever is streaming it? Does this bother you? Sound off in the comments below.      

Your Comment

10 Comments

Extensions already offer this feature for free on many internet applications (i.e. Super Netflix on Google Chrome). Credit for Netflix taking a leap into innovative content delivery for binge-watchers and people who want to slow down and study the action.

October 29, 2019 at 9:52AM

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Mattison
Producer/Director/Writer/Podcaster, iPhone Videographer
15

Just one more example of our rushed, short attention span, gotta-put-10-gallons-in-a-five-gallon-bucket, everything NOW society. And it’s only going to get worse...

October 29, 2019 at 11:45AM

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C B
109

I hope you & all the upset creators start to complain about sanitizing content for TV and interrupting it with commercials ... or was THAT the creative choice all along?

Also please disable the fast forward, skip ahead and pause buttons. HOW DO I DARE use ANY of those !!!! LOLOL

October 29, 2019 at 10:41PM

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Poly
128

Depressing times for filmmakers. :-(

October 30, 2019 at 10:50AM

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Rod P
209

Agreed.

October 31, 2019 at 2:39AM

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Who gives a hoot. Anybody with half a brain can already do this through extensions. If Judd thinks he has more power than Netflix he's been smoking too much weed from one of his crappy movies.

October 30, 2019 at 2:44PM

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I would like to add that it is the most traditional way to sample Netflix for free are its free 1-month trials, which you can sign up for here. Each time you want to use a free trial, you'll need a new email address and credit card number, though, which means you won't be able to create too many before running out of opportunities.

October 31, 2019 at 6:16AM

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Millie Allen
Writer
19

I'm a writer and producer myself, so I understand the concerns of the content creators. But it's funny how "creative" types whine about the importance of their freedom in the creative process, but then they hypocritically want to limit the freedom of the viewers in how they view the content they've paid to see. Netflix and other "streamers" (as well as Vidangel and other filtering companies) are not altering the content. Rather they are giving viewers freedom of CHOICE. Isn't that what art is all about? Personally, if my option as a creator is to have someone watch my work as THEY want to (and paying for it) vs. not seeing it at all, I'll take the former. Get over it, and find a more important hill to die on!

October 31, 2019 at 2:42PM

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What do you mean by " then they hypocritically want to limit the freedom of the viewers" ? Are you nuts? You created a movie, you spent months designing every shot, every cut, cinematography, working on the performance of the actors, every single word of the screenplay. So then you want the audience to CHANGE it? What's next? You want Netflix to allow the audience to change the colors of your movie and have emojis flying around the screen? Jesus Christ!

October 31, 2019 at 3:43PM

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Rod P
209

I think that reality, talk shows, some cheaper documentaries could benefit from that feature. But not narratives. Narratives need their right pace, their right cinematic color (not these "vivid" profiles that TVs ship with), their right frame rate. Works of art, need to be experienced as their artist creator intended them to be.

Then again, we're in the midst of Peak TV, 10 major streaming services, Youtube, social media, and lots of video games. There are only a few hours per week a working individual has time to watch TV. What Netflix is competing against is NOT Disney+, it's TIME. As such, their decision makes 100% business sense. Just not creative sense.

November 2, 2019 at 5:16PM

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Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist
75