Streaming major Netflix is attempting to address this problem with its latest feature called Play Something. If you are familiar with Google’s ‘I am feeling lucky’ feature, this is essentially Netflix’s version of it.
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The idea is to provide an experience similar to a traditional television wherein you can switch on the device and there would be something to watch. The feature is currently available on Netflix’s television apps across the world although they plan to test it on mobile apps later this year.
How does it work? Netflix will feature a ‘Play Something’ button underneath the user’s profile name, the navigation menu and the tenth row on the service’s homepage. When one clicks on this button, the service will choose a brand new series or a movie personalised to the user’s tastes and watch history to immediately start playing that title on the screen. In case the title is not interesting, users will have an option to skip to the next title.
Netflix has been testing this feature with select users for more than a year and has gone through multiple iterations, said Cameron Johnson, Director of Product Innovation, Netflix. In January, Netflix had stated plans to roll out this feature globally in the first half of 2021.
“When you click play something, it will always play a show that you haven’t watched before. It’s designed for the moment when you want to watch something new, since we realized that’s a hard choice for people” Johnson said. An earlier iteration of this test, which was less successful, had included newer episodes of series the user has already started or watched, he said.
“We realized that if people want to just watch the next episode of the show that they are already excited about, it’s generally really easy for them to do, they go and find that show and watch the next episode.” Johnson said “We have some further experimentations to understand how much should we base it on what you’ve watched before, or how much variety we should include in the suggestions”
Over the years, Netflix has
explored different ways to improve content discovery on its platform. This includes Snapchat Stories-inspired previews,
automatic downloads feature on mobile apps, and improved user interfaces for its television apps among others.
This is crucial for the streaming giant as it
ramps up content programming on its service. Netflix plans to spend over $17 billion on content in 2021, the company said in its latest earnings report earlier this month.
In India, Netflix competes with players like Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Essel Group’s Zee5, Times Internet’s MX Player, Sony Pictures Network’s SonyLIV, Viacom18’s Voot, and Reliance-backed ALT Balaji among others.
*Disclosure: Times Internet owns ETtech