Netflix is today officially launching a new feature for its Android users that will make it easier to find something to watch when you can’t make a decision. The feature, called “Play Something,” is a shuffle mode option that will play another movie or show Netflix believes you may like, based on your interests and your prior viewing behavior.
These selections may include a movie or show you’re already watching but haven’t completed, a movie or show on your watch list or a brand-new series or film that Netflix’s personalization algorithms suggest, among other things.
The feature had been in development for some time before its public release. Last year, for example, Netflix was testing it as “Shuffle Play.” And in its Q4 2020 earnings, Netflix said it would roll out its shuffle mode to users worldwide during the first half of 2021, describing it as a way to “instantly watch a title” that was chosen just for the user.
That rollout schedule was partially realized.
“Play Something,” as the feature was rebranded to, officially launched to worldwide users on Netflix’s TV app back in April. Here, the option can be found in several places, including on the profile selection screen underneath your profile name, on the navigation menu to the left of your screen and on the tenth row on your Netflix homepage — a location that’s meant to appear right at the point where you’re beginning to get frustrated with browsing and may have otherwise exited the app. In addition, Netflix users with screen-readers could also use Text-to-Speech (TTS) to use “Play Something.”
The company said at the time it would soon start testing the feature on mobile devices, starting with Android. It then began those tests in late May.
In other words, you may very well have had the feature on your own Android device long before this “official” debut — but not all Netflix users globally have been able to try it yet.
That’s now changing, as Netflix is officially bringing “Play Something” to all Android mobile devices worldwide, with the rollout that starts today. The company says it will test the feature on iOS in the “coming months.”
On mobile, the “Play Something” button hovers over the content at the bottom of the phone’s screen as you scroll and also has its own dedicated tab in the app.
User response to the addition, so far, has been positive, Netflix noted — even pointing to a few tweets where people praised the feature.
But for Netflix, the shuffle mode feature isn’t only about giving users another, easier way to watch — it’s a means of retaining users in the app before they jump to another entertainment option, whether that’s a rival streamer or even a social media app for video, like TikTok.
In fact, the threat from short-form video is serious enough that Netflix recently built its own TikTok-like feature for its mobile app called “Fast Laughs,” which shows a feed of comedy videos meant to drive users to its content. Putting harder numbers to this potential threat, TikTok, at an event last week, noted that 35% of its users were watching less TV due to TikTok, citing data from its own research.
“Play Something” joins other newer additions as well, including a smart downloads feature called “Downloads for You” and support for partial play downloads, as well as last year’s addition of the Top 10 list.