"So, what do you want to watch tonight?" can be an exciting or terrifying phrase, depending on who you ask. Netflix's huge and diverse library of content allows us to essentially satisfy every mood and whim that strikes the moment we sit down to watch a movie or show. But having what feels like an unlimited amount of choices can often present its own challenge: decision fatigue.
Netflix has just announced a new feature to help battle the common frustration of scrolling for hours without actually choosing what to watch. It's called “Play Something,” and it picks a TV show or movie you'll love based on the service's algorithms.
The feature, which the streaming service has been testing in different iterations for two years, is kind of like regular television: When you click the "Play Something" button — which, if you decide to opt in, will appear under your profile name on startup, as well as in the 10th row on your Netflix homepage and in the navigation bar on the left of the screen — it'll automatically start playing a series or movie based on your watch history. Users won't be shown something completely random — the title will either be something you've never watched before, something you were already watching, or a movie or show on your watchlist. Additionally, a little graphic will appear explaining why the algorithm chose that particular title. And if you don't like it what Netflix has chosen for you, you can choose to “Play Something Else,” or go back if you change your mind.
To some people, the problem lies in the fact that we have too much content to choose from. We already face so many decisions in our daily routine — Toothpaste with extra whitening? Or organic? Enamel defence? Colgate? Aquafresh? — and, at the end of the day, having everything on-demand puts even more pressure and stress on people.
At Netflix, however, they don't believe so much in the paradox of choice when it comes to streaming, but rather that we aren't given the right tools in order to figure out what we want to watch.
“More and more content — it’s hard to describe it as anything but a good thing. I’m shocked when people don’t think it’s a good thing,” Todd Yellin, Netflix's Vice President of Product told Vulture. “Because what it’s doing at its core is, it’s giving more gifted storytellers from more diverse backgrounds a chance to tell their stories. It’s giving the viewers more interesting things to choose from.”
Perhaps for those who fear that dreaded "what to watch" question, the answer can be simple: Let Netflix decide.