Netflix, who remains at the top of the streaming food chain, could absolutely be in the “If it ain’t broke…” state of mind, but instead they are trying something that is both controversial and also potentially illuminating.
Soon every subscriber will be allowed to watch Netflix content sped up (at 1.25X or 1.5X) or slowed down (at .75X or .5X), bringing what had been a popular podcast feature into the realm of TV and film.
After announcing testing of this last year, it immediately generated a significant amount of outrage from content creators, who see this as a bastardization of their creations. While Youtube already offers this capability, Netflix’s decision changes the dynamics quite a bit as a full library of feature-length films and series can now be viewed in a way that those who made them never envisioned.
As this article notes, writer/director Judd Apatow tweeted that “...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.”
So now that people will be able to watch the 210 minutes of The Irishman in less than 2 ½ hours, it will no doubt spark some very heated rhetoric as to whether this is genuinely good or bad for the overall quality of streaming content. But it will also produce some incredibly interesting data.
Collecting data on the speeds that people are watching movies, series and sections of both can offer a totally new perspective on the way people want to watch this content. The pacing of shows, after all, is one of the most consequential aspects of video, and if that pacing needs to be “fixed” by a viewer then that says a lot about what is actually happening and how the content itself is maybe falling short.
But to really figure this out, we would need a dataset and some really good AI to actually see where those correlations exist.
Something like Resonance AI could look at the trends of how people are using the speed options, and be able to find not only which shows could be edited at a quicker pace, but it could also find the areas inside episodes and movies where things lag. And making these connections at scale can offer some of the most granular insights into when people are happy with the pacing, need to slow it down a little or are growing impatient.
Changing the speed of content on Netflix may not end up as one of the streamer’s best ideas, but collecting those viewing habits, when coupled with cutting edge AI, can potentially open up a completely new avenue in creating content that truly resonates.