Netflix Is Testing Out an Audio-Only Option for Mobile

Would you listen to all six and half hours of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” on your headphones?

Netflix is toying with giving customers a podcast-like experience for its streaming content: It has launched a test of an audio-only option for mobile devices, initially for Android, that lets users disable video and listen to the audio of a TV show or movie in the background.

Netflix doesn’t really know how many users would be interested in the feature — that’s the point of the test, after all.

Subscribers in the test can toggle to audio-only mode by selecting a “Video Off” button in the Netflix playback screen. Users must opt-in to use the feature for every title and every session. For now, interactive content isn’t supported in audio-only mode.

“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix mobile experience for our members,” a Netflix rep said in a statement to Variety. “We run tests in different countries and for different periods of time — and only make them broadly available if people find them useful.” The test was first reported by Android Police.

Of course, Netflix didn’t invent the concept of playing back video in listen-only mode: YouTube, for example, already lets its premium subscribers listen to audio in the background, although this seems mainly aimed as listening to music.

Not every feature Netflix kicks the tires on ends up getting widely released. But several do. This summer, the company widened its test on connected-TV devices of “Shuffle Play,” a feature that plays a random title based on users’ viewing history or playlists, and Netflix says it plans to turn that into a permanent feature.

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