Why People Watch YouTube Videos at Faster Playback Speeds

YouTube launched a feature called video playback speeds in 2010 to let users control how fast they want to watch their favorite content.

Since then, more and more users have increased their reading speed when watching videos, and here’s why.

YouTube users speed up videos

According to a YouTube blog post, most people watch videos at normal (1x) speed.

However, more and more users are changing the speed more and more, speeding things up “more than 85% of the time”. Here’s what YouTube says about it:

Outside of normal, 1.5x is used most often, followed by 2x in second place and 1.25x in third place. And for perfectionists who like custom speeds, 1.1x was the most used speed. Just a little faster, but not too much! YouTube users have saved an average of over 900 years of video time per day by watching at faster speeds. That would be like watching PSY’s “Gangnam Style” nearly 113 million times.

If you want to be part of this group, you can quickly learn how to change the playback speed of a YouTube video.

Why do people speed up YouTube videos?

According to YouTube, there are two solid reasons: the time of day and the device people are using.

1. Time of day

Many users usually don’t speed up the videos they want in the morning. However, people are starting to speed up the videos as the day progresses. According to YouTube:

We found that viewers more often use playback speeds to speed up or slow down their videos in the evening, with a peak beginning around 11:00 p.m. in their local time.

For the most used rate, which is 1.5x, the peaks of use are between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

YouTube doesn’t really explain why users speed things up at night. However, we can assume it’s because of social media. One of the dangers of social media is that it can shorten your attention span. Combine that with the sheer number of channels and videos on YouTube, and you get people who don’t have the time or patience to watch a video at normal speed.

So we’re speeding up the videos in a desperate attempt to watch as many of them as possible.

2. The device you use matters

Mobile users on Android and iOS most often use 1.5x playback speed, while those watching from their smart TVs or game consoles prefer to use normal speed, followed closely by 1.25x speed .

PC users, who are most likely to watch on the YouTube website, spend the most time watching at 2x speed.​​​​​​​

More speed, more productivity?

In the never-ending battle between social media and the real world for our attention, increasing playback speed can help us skim through a video faster, so you can get back to reading that book, cooking dinner or end this report.

However, increased playback speeds can plunge us deeper into the dopamine-fueled YouTube rabbit holes we often fall into. And it’s not good for productivity, sleep, and connection with family and friends.

Raymond T. Helms