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Netflix is testing a new ‘Watch Now’ feature that makes it more like regular TV

Published Dec 10th, 2019 6:16PM EST
Netflix Watch Now
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Netflix has such a massive base of viewers at this point, spread across so many corners of the globe, that any improvement in the company’s streaming service — no matter how small — can end up having an outsized effect.

Say, for example, you give people a way to cut down by even just a few seconds the amount of time they spend browsing content within Netflix’s app. You just let those users dive into something to watch straight away, no time spent mindlessly scrolling. In theory, across a big enough chunk of subscribers, that would juice a big boost in engagement and represent a spike in usage in the aggregate. That seems to be what Netflix is thinking with a test of a new feature that’s underway around the world. The new feature is called “Watch Now,” and it’s exactly that — a way to skip the browsing and immediately start watching content.

Variety first reported news of the test on Tuesday, and here’s what users who are part of the test will see:

Pressing “Watch Now” will result in one of the following: Netflix might start streaming the episode that’s next up in a show you’re currently watching. Or, it might show something else from your list — and even something Netflix has algorithmically decided you might like. Because of the seeming randomness, viewers will be told why they’re seeing this particular content once they’ve pressed the button, and what seems to be the thought here is to appeal to someone who just wants to mindlessly binge.

Maybe you don’t necessarily want to watch a particular thing at the moment. You’re just in a mood to crash and relax on the couch. What this feature potentially saves Netflix from is you browsing … and browsing … and browsing. And maybe, you get fed up, decide you don’t want to watch anything after all, and you give up entirely. Letting Netflix pick for you might keep you glued to the app a bit longer, where you would have given up before.

Netflix is constantly testing and experimenting with new features like this one and other bells and whistles to potentially add to its streaming app. For many people, Netflix is already the equivalent of and maybe even has gone ahead and replaced the idea of TV. This “Watch Now” feature might remind you a little of TV — and, specifically, of clicking through channels, which gives you in effect the same thing you find here. A surprise from one channel to the next, as you don’t necessarily know what content will greet you each time.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.