Netflix will let you skip Trump jokes. Is it a gimmick or the future of TV viewing?

Seth Meyers’ new Netflix comedy special has an interesting feature.
Seth Meyers’ new Netflix comedy special has an interesting feature.
Image: Netflix
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Netflix already lets users skip the intro credits to its shows. Now the streaming service will let you skip through some actual content—in one comedy special, at least.

Seth Meyers’ upcoming standup special on Netflix will include a feature that allows viewers to opt out of hearing the comedian’s jokes about US president Donald Trump, CNN Business reported today (Nov. 4). It’s like the “skip intro” button, but for political content.

“We’re thrilled [Meyers] was able to take advantage of the Netflix experience in such a funny and innovative way,” Robbie Praw, Netflix’s director of original standup comedy programming, told CNN.

Meyers told CNN that the opt-out feature is just a joke, one he doesn’t expect Netflix subscribers to actually use. The late-night host is renowned for his Trump barbs. It’s unlikely that many viewers will choose to watch his comedy special and expect there not to be any jokes about the president.

Still, the feature—frivolous though it may be—provides a glimpse at how Netflix can be emboldened to implement technology that changes the TV viewing experience.

Last week, Netflix revealed it was testing a feature that allows users to vary the speed at which they watch content on mobile devices. The option would, theoretically, let viewers watch Stranger Things or The Crown at 1.5x or 0.5x the speed. While altering speeds has become a popular method with which to consume podcasts, it has yet to be deployed on video content like TV shows and movies.

This, unsurprisingly, scared a number of consumers and creators alike. Actor Aaron Paul, who starred in the recent Netflix film El Camino, tweeted his disapproval. “There is NO WAY Netflix will move forward with this,” he said. “That would mean they are completely taking control of everyone else’s art and destroying it.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)

In a blog post, Netflix said it’s “sensitive to creator concerns” and has no plans to roll out the speed-changing feature in the short term, though it left itself the option to do so down the line, pending feedback.

Netflix has experimented with countless other features, like shuffle play, a “Netflix and chill” mode, and video promotions in between episodes—some of which have been officially added to the platform, while others have not. But one can imagine how Meyers’ “skip Trump” feature could be applied to all kinds of other content in myriad ways.

The same technology could be used to allow viewers to skip scenes with drugs, violence, sex, or curse words. It could let viewers jump over scenes deemed boring or uneventful or ancillary to the main plot. It could let viewers eliminate characters or story lines they aren’t interested in, wildly transforming how stories are watched in the future. The tech also has major implications for spoilerphobes: Any opt-out button that pops up on the screen, by definition, would have to warn viewers about what was about to happen on screen.

Now that Netflix has several new competitors in the streaming landscape, don’t be surprised if each service begins experimenting with how their users experience content, in order to stand out from the crowd. Skipping Trump jokes might not be a big deal now, but it won’t be the last time you hear about Silicon Valley encroaching on art in the name of innovation.