Netflix Tests Feature to Skip Browsing and Begin Streaming

Netflix started a global test of a new feature — dubbed Watch Now — that allows users to skip browsing titles and begin streaming immediately. The new feature will appear as a button on the profile selection page that opens when the Netflix app launches on a smart TV or streaming device. Netflix is well known for testing features with specific local markets, device categories or audiences. Watch Now is being tested for a month or two with a small worldwide audience on TVs and TV-connected devices including Roku and Fire TV.

Variety reports that, “upon selecting the ‘Watch Now’ button, Netflix starts streaming the next episode of a show a user is currently watching, something from their personal list, or a title that has been selected by Netflix’s algorithms … [with] a brief explanation as to why the title was chosen.” Alternatively, the button can be found in the app’s sidebar.

Netflix is offering another new feature — Play Something Else — which, for now, is only displayed to users who started their session with Watch Now. The Watch Now trial, says Variety, is in line with “the industry as a whole … looking for ways to simplify the content discovery experience on smart TVs, which includes a move away from app-centric interfaces.”

Apple chief executive Tim Cook stated that the future of TV was apps, and that company is now “aggregating content from a variety of sources within its TV app, doing away with the need to browse separate apps … [and] publishers and device manufacturers have also increasingly been looking to well-established usage patterns predating streaming to simplify smart TV experiences.”

Pluto TV and Xumo, both ad-supported video services now “present on-demand content in a curated, linear-like fashion, complete with a program guide that resembles the look and feel of a traditional cable EPG.”

Netflix, Variety states, “is clearly taking some cues from traditional TV viewing to offer a more leanback-friendly experience as an alternative.” The motivation for creating Watch Now can be found in its Long-Term View document, where Netflix stated that, “those decision points are, say, at 7:15 pm when a member wants to relax, enjoy a shared experience with friends and family, or is bored … the member could choose Netflix, or a multitude of other options.”