With so much content to watch, consumers have begun using the playback controls of streaming platforms to watch as many shows as they can.
From podcasters to speedwatchers, subscribers want more control over how they consume content. YouTube was among the first platforms to introduce a playback speed option in 2010, where viewers can watch content up to two times faster than the normal speed. This corresponds to about 270 words per minute, compared with just 150 words per minute for an average viewing rate. Soon, other streaming platforms like Hulu and Amazon Prime began offering playback speed controls, with Netflix finally offering the option in August 2019. While there are some viewers that watch at a slower rate than average, an increasing number now prefer speedwatching at 1.25-1.5x speed to be able to go through more shows in a day.
When Netflix offered the playback speed option, directors and actors protested, as allowing viewers to manipulate the pace of the shows and movies would violate the artists’ intent and vision. Some consumers have noted that they intentionally do not speedwatch films and television programs with respect to the production efforts and to better appreciate the experience.
Speedwatching raises further questions if viewers can still understand the content. Scientists discovered in the 1960s that humans listen much faster than they speak. However, anything higher than 1.5x speed would translate to a drop in comprehension level, making the recall of important concepts difficult. While some viewers claim they can still understand content at 2x speed, they also tend to revert to normal rates for shows they really enjoy watching. As a result, filmmakers and television producers may consider what happens to their content when sped up to speeds of 1.5x and 2x, leading to possible changes in how these productions are written, shot, and edited.
Implications for viewers speedwatching content
The wider implications of streaming service viewers speeding up content for consumption may include:
- Content being optimized for faster playback speeds, including producers investing more in visuals rather than dialogue.
- The entertainment industry adjusting for shorter viewer attention spans by producing fast-paced and short-length films and episodes.
- Viewers jumping from one piece of content to the other, prioritizing quantity over quality.
- Viewers becoming more likely to listen to audible podcasts and audiobooks at faster rates as well.
Questions to comment on
- Do you prefer watching content at faster speeds? Why?
- What could be the other effects of speedwatching? Do you believe viewers are consuming sub-standard content when they speedwatch?