WHEN NETFLIX INTRODUCED a playback-control feature allowing viewers to adjust the speed of whatever they’re watching on the platform last year, it opened up some genuinely strange possibilities. Ever thought about watching Peaky Blinders really fast? (It’s fun.) Or Too Hot to Handle at half-speed? (Why would you? Why not?)
To some, the addition was curious. It seemed like yet another instance of Netflix’s increasing technical whimsy, along with its adventures in interactive television and its interest in building out an in-house video-game division. The company’s official explanation for adding the new playback control was that it would make Netflix more accessible. (Whether this was simply shrewd messaging doesn’t make it any less meaningful. I have a geriatric relative, a little slower on the uptake these days, who’s relishing that sweet 0.75x life.) But it also appeared to be another example of the company working to deepen its consumers’ appetites for binge-watching, a phenomenon it helped pioneer. Many of the writers, directors, and actors who work with Netflix initially reacted to the tool with frustration, and I can see how it would come off as a Machiavellian strategy.
But I have very much welcomed the feature into my relatively able-bodied life. Indeed, it has turned me into what could be called a “speed-watcher,” and though I feel self-conscious about having become this sort of person, I’m also in a better place for it.
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