So much to stream, so little time? Netflix has a solution.

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Whether it’s the mo(u)rning rou­tine of hav­ing to leave your beloved bed, or the devi­ous­ly bril­liant book that won’t let you stop turn­ing pages while the dig­its relent­less­ly move towards 3 a.m. – there are quite a few occa­sions where hav­ing more time would come in handy.

I’ll spare you any more time-con­sum­ing pas­sages of intro­duc­tion and cut right to the chase:

Net­flix is test­ing a fea­ture that lets users accel­er­ate play­back speed up to 1.5 times the nor­mal speed. Ever since the news went viral, Net­flix was hit hard with back­lash­es from a num­ber of moviemak­ers and actors. Net­flix defend­ed the choice by stat­ing it’s been a “heav­i­ly request­ed fea­ture from subscribers.”

It’s impos­si­ble for me to val­i­date whether that’s true or not; what we do know is that as of now, Net­flix is only test­ing the fea­ture on a small frac­tion of their cus­tomers and only on Android devices. And even if this were to become a reg­u­lar fea­ture, as long as Net­flix doesn’t force cus­tomers to indulge in stream­ing-quick­ies, it’s all fine, isn’t it?

Cer­tain­ly. But some­thing tells me that Net­flix doesn’t con­sid­er its bold move to save their sub­scribers time. In Novem­ber 2019, Net­flix CEO Reed Hast­ings stat­ed that sub­scriber totals weren’t the best way to mea­sure which ser­vice was win­ning “The Stream­ing Wars,” clar­i­fy­ing that “time will be the real com­pe­ti­tion.” Back in 2017, Hast­ings had declared sleep to be Netflix’s biggest com­pe­ti­tion. (Author’s note: Stud­ies show that up to 88% of Amer­i­can adults reg­u­lar­ly sac­ri­fice sleep in order to stream content.)

The back­lash from film­mak­ers, actors, and oth­ers involved in the cre­ative process has been harsh. Many con­sid­er Netflix’s time exper­i­ment an assault on art itself. And I can see why: A movie’s tim­ing and pac­ing are part of the artis­tic process and far from ran­dom. There’s this thing called nuance. It’s not for free, though, but rather demands the view­ers’ atten­tion and reflec­tion. One might fear that if ‘speed-stream­ing’ were to become a com­mon prac­tice, movies and shows would not be unscathed.

How­ev­er, that’s pie in the sky. By pay­ing their month­ly fee to Net­flix, users have done their share and ‘own’ the con­tent made avail­able to them, but don’t ‘owe’ the cre­ators any­thing. Fair enough. Let’s now focus on the audi­ence – our­selves. Why do we watch a movie or a show? Is it about infor­ma­tion? About mere knowl­edge of the plot? If so, the most effi­cient way would be to read one plot syn­op­sis after anoth­er. That’s sil­ly, so that’s not it. Is it the infa­mous fear of miss­ing out, both on all the great (and maybe even not so great) con­tent and on con­ver­sa­tions about that con­tent with friends? Maybe. Maybe that’s why series feel like work to some. I’ve actu­al­ly heard peo­ple moan in agony, real­iz­ing they’re begin­ning to love a mul­ti-sea­son show.

Relax. That’s what I want to tell these peo­ple. And you. And myself. Let’s ask our­selves: Why would we feel the need to rush to the end of some­thing we actu­al­ly enjoy? The new­ness of a yet unwatched episode or movie doesn’t ever come back, so why not cher­ish that feel­ing while it lasts?

Maybe this is the time to say that I am a Net­flix sub­scriber, that I like it a lot and appre­ci­ate what it offers. But I also want to be con­scious about the way I use it. If there’s lit­tle time, why not watch one episode instead of two? Or half an episode? Why not ditch a show you’re not that invest­ed in? Or, if nec­es­sary, stay away from Net­flix for a while? Whoops, just this moment I’m real­iz­ing that those sug­ges­tions I’m offer­ing here might be viable options for us, but cer­tain­ly not for Net­flix. Well, that’s okay. They’ve got their pri­or­i­ties. Let’s have ours.

 16,249 Total Views,  3 Views Today