When I need to cover an hour-long video but I don’t have an hour to spare, I like to increase YouTube’s playback speed by 50%. Apparently, I’m not alone. In a blog post, YouTube shared stats about its sped-up and slowed-down videos. Among other insights, the platform revealed that 85% of viewers who change their playback speeds prefer a faster tempo than the default option.
“We’re always working to give users more control over their experience on YouTube,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer, in a preamble to the post. “You may be familiar with the YouTube feature called video playback speeds which we launched back in 2010 to allow users to control just how quickly or slowly they want to watch content. In this installment of our innovation series, our team takes a look into how users engage with the playback speeds feature on YouTube.”
So what did YouTube find? Apparently, most people on the platform are like Ricky Bobby, because they want to go fast. By opting for playback speeds like 1.5x and 2x, viewers who accelerate their videos save an average of 900 hours of watch time per day. (Note: that stat doesn’t factor in viewers who stick to the tried-and-true 1x.)
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If only there were more hours in the day
Clearly, viewers enjoy saving time while watching videos, but even those speed demons have some rules. For example, don’t expect them to enable 1.5x or 2x before they’ve had their morning coffee.
As YouTube’s post explains, increased playback speeds are employed more frequently as the day goes on. Their usage peaks around 11 pm, which suggests that viewers are trying to cram in one more hour-long Jenny Nicholson rant before bed. Anyone who goes all the way up to 2x in that situation might want to put their phone down. In the morning, their body will thank them for those extra few minutes of sleep.
However, video accelerators aren’t necessarily watching on their phones.
In fact, it is desktop viewers who are most likely to employ the 2x option, according to YouTube. Perhaps us media members, with our busy schedules and our love of laptops, are partially responsible for that.
Meanwhile, YouTube users who watch on connected TVs are least likely to pick up the pace. That data supports the idea that TV screens provide a more casual “lean back” viewing experience compared to other devices. Those consumers are in less of a rush, which could explain why YouTube is eager to sell ads on TV.
What about the minority who prefers to slow things down?
Well, they seem to be few and far between. And while I can think of many reasons to increase playback speed (it makes songs sound cool), the use cases for reduced speeds are much more niche.
YouTube’s post suggests that a viewer could opt for something like .75x speed while “slowly following along to a cooking tutorial.” Personally, I only slow down videos if I’m trying to make Jennifer Lawrence sound like Will Ferrell.