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Netflix, Give Us the Linear TV Feature for Mindless Binge-Watching

Illustration for article titled Netflix, Give Us the Linear TV Feature for Mindless Binge-Watching
Image: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP

A ritual I have become accustomed to at the end of a long day is collapsing on the couch, booting up my Apple TV, and launching my various streaming services one after the other looking for something to watch. It’s much like opening the fridge when you know there’s nothing new inside from the last time you checked three hours ago. It’s nuts, I know, but I’ve yet to figure out a better system.

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It’s one of the reasons that linear programming appeals to me (sans ads, which are awful), but it’s a feature missing from most of my go-to streaming services like Netflix. In France, however, the streaming giant is testing a feature I hope makes its way to the U.S. as well. Direct is a browser-based feature that takes the guesswork out of deciding what to watch by serving viewers a continuous, real-time feed featuring some of Netflix’s premier content.

Illustration for article titled Netflix, Give Us the Linear TV Feature for Mindless Binge-Watching
Image: Netflix
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Situated as a menu option from the rightmost corner next to a user’s profile, Direct will pull up a feed of popular international and European Netflix titles. Netflix said that everything from French comedy series Family Business to The Crown and Unorthodox will be featured. The company added that Direct will be available to all of its subscribers in France by December.

Sadly, a spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company does not have plans to roll it out to other countries.

“We’re always looking at new features to help our members discover great shows and films more easily,” the company said in a statement. “This web-based linear feed test, which is only available in France, offers a ‘lean back’ viewing experience. We experiment with these types of tests in different countries—making them more broadly available if people find them useful.”

It’s unclear how exactly Netflix would choose which episodes of a series to include in Direct for a linear series like The Crown. In a screenshot shared of the feature, the first episode of French series Mortel was included. In theory, given how much new content arrives on the platform weekly and how much already exists in its catalog, Direct could work as a sampler platter of Netflix originals to bring in viewers who might not otherwise be immediately interested in a series or might have missed one.

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Personally, this sounds like a perfect feature for someone like me whose streaming process generally includes at least half an hour of browsing various services before landing on something to watch. Netflix, give us the live TV experience without ads that we so desperately want. I beg of you, bring the browse endlessly plan to an end.

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DISCUSSION

People really can’t handle having choice, can they?

It’s possible to do exactly what Netflix is going to do, behind the scenes anyway: go eenie meanie minie moe and choose a thumbnail; then scroll forward to a random spot and start watching.

Do we really need Netflix to automate such simple tasks? All Netflix is doing is providing the illusion of showing something that’s playing “now.” In reality, all of Netflix content is perpetually playing “now” because it’s all available at any time, Or maybe none of it is, until you click. Meaningless distinction.

However, since this is focused on European content, I think another agenda is behind this. Netflix needs to mollify the French government, which is annoyed at French Netflix subscribers watching American stuff. So Netflix is creating this silly feature as a sop to get the government regulators off their back. Why else would this be rolled out in France, and not other countries? Wouldn’t this be equally popular everywhere?