Netflix Launches Play Something Shuffle Feature Worldwide

Netflix has a new way to try to get customers binge-watching in a hurry: The company officially is launching “Play Something,” which picks a TV show or movie its algorithms think you will love, on connected-TV platforms across its global footprint.

The shuffle-play feature, which Netflix has been testing in various forms for two years, is designed to help users instantly find a new show or movie to dig into — instead of scrolling through Netflix’s menus.

“When finding your next story, let the story find you,” Cameron Johnson, Netflix’s director of product innovation, wrote in a blog post. “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 Android mobile devices 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 a Netflix user clicks 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.

The Play Something button shows up in three areas: Underneath your profile name, 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 with a random-episode feature for its Android app, which was 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 titles a member has never watched, based on a 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.

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