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Judd Apatow, Brad Bird Slam Netflix for Testing Playback Speeds: ‘Spectacularly Bad Idea’

The new playback feature is being tested on Netflix's Android app and there is currently no plan announced to introduce it to a wider set of users.

Judd ApatowVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018

Judd Apatow

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Update (12:50pm ET): Netflix vice president Keela Robison has responded to the backlash in a blog post that reads: “This last test has generated a fair amount of feedback – both for and against. We’ve been sensitive to creator concerns and haven’t included bigger screens, in particular TVs, in this test.” Robinson there are no current plans to do so.

Earlier: Filmmakers such as Judd Apatow and Brad Bird are taking a stand against Netflix after it was reported the streaming giant had begun testing variable playback speeds. According to a Variety report published October 25, Netflix introduced a new feature on its Android app that allows users to play movies and television shows at a variety of speeds, ranging from 0.5x (half as fast) all the way to 1.5x. It should be stressed Netflix has not introduced the feature on any platform other than the Android app, but the very notion of giving users the chance to slow down or speed up a movie has set off a firestorm among directors on social media.

“No Netflix, no. Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this,” Apatow wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Apatow added, “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.”

Brad Bird called the feature “another spectacularly bad idea, and another cut to the already bleeding-out cinema experience.” The “Incredibles” and “Tomorrowland” director wondered why Netflix would attempt to “destroy the presentation” of movies when they’ve been fighting so hard to “support and finance filmmakers’ visions” (see “Roma” and “The Irishman,” for example). For this reason, Aaron Paul doesn’t think Netflix will introduce the feature on a mass level. Paul teamed with Netflix this month for the release of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad,” which the streaming giant said was watched by 25 million households during its first week of release.

“There is NO WAY Netflix will move forward with this,” Paul wrote on Twitter. “That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it. Netflix is far better than that. Am I right Netflix?…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.”

A Netflix spokesperson defended the playback speed feature in a statement to Variety that read: “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. 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.”

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