Netflix has a new way to try to get customers binge-watching in a hurry: The company is launching “Play Something,” which picks a TV show or movie based on what its algorithms think you will love, on connected-TV platforms globally.
The shuffle-play feature is designed to help users instantly find a new show or movie to dig into — instead of manually scrolling through Netflix’s menus. You know: like regular old linear television, in a way. It’s something Netflix has been testing in various forms for two years.
“When finding your next story, let the story find you,” Cameron Johnson, Netflix’s director of product innovation, said in a statement. “Whether you’re in the mood for a new or familiar favorite, just ‘Play Something’ and let Netflix handle the rest.”
Play Something is initially available on TVs, and Netflix says it will launch the feature on its Android mobile app soon. For now, Netflix doesn’t have details on when Play Something will be available on iOS devices, nor does it currently have plans to intro the feature for web browsers.
When Netflix users click the “Play Something” button, the service will start streaming a series or film based on what they’ve watched before. If whatever pops up isn’t to your liking, you can click on “Play Something Else.” The titles surfaced will be either something a user has never watched before; a series or film they were already watching; or a title on their watchlist.
On TVs, the Play Something button shows up in three areas: Underneath your profile name on startup, in the 10th row on your Netflix homepage, and in the navigation menu on the left of the screen.
Netflix previously said it was launching the feature worldwide in the first half of 2021. On the company’s January earnings call, COO and chief product officer Greg Peters said that sometimes users come to the service “and they’re not really sure what they want to watch.”
“It’s really working for us where our members can basically indicate to us that they just want to skip browsing entirely, click one button and we’ll pick a title for them just to instantly play,” Peters said.
Reactions on social media to Netflix’s test of the feature have ranged from meh to ecstatic. “The Netflix ‘play something’ feature is going to save my marriage,” one user tweeted earlier this month.
Netflix first tested a similar feature in 2019 in its Android app with a random-episode feature available for select TV shows. The company in mid-2020 began a second round of testing globally of “Shuffle Play.”
Netflix emphasized that, strictly speaking, Play Something doesn’t serve up randomized titles: Rather, the TV shows or films are picked to be the most statistically likely to be something a given viewer will enjoy, based on their viewing history and preferences.
For Netflix members who use screen-readers, Play Something supports Text-to-Speech (TTS) and the feature can be enabled through TV device settings.