Netflix Is Rolling Out a 'Shuffle Play' Feature This Year

The new feature, based on your watch history and Netflix's algorithm, will shake things up and possibly cut back on scrolling.

bridgerton, simon, rene-jean page
René-Jean Page in 'Bridgerton' | Netflix
René-Jean Page in 'Bridgerton' | Netflix

As Netflix's library of original TV shows and movies continues to expand, the technology side of the company has focused more on ways to cut back on the scrolling and the searching that comes with attempting to find the next thing to watch. The streaming service's latest feature, Shuffle Play, hopes to provide a solution to this problem by introducing a little randomness into the Netflix experience. 

Announced during the company's most recent earnings call—and rolled out in test form last year—Shuffle Play is exactly what it sounds like: a button that picks your next binge for you. On the earnings call, the company said the feature "gives members the ability to choose to instantly watch a title chosen just for them versus Browse." Think of similar features on iPods and streaming music services, but for episodes of Bridgerton. The feature is expected to roll out globally in the first half of 2021, but there's no specific date just yet.

netflix shuffle play
Leanne Butkovic/Thrillist

This being Netflix, the feature is not designed to simply be a completely randomized roll of the dice. As TechCrunch notes, the feature will use Netflix's viewing algorithm to serve up shows that it thinks you will enjoy based on your viewing history or what's on your watch list at the moment. The feature is currently being tested on TV apps, through hardware like the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku, and not on mobile or web browsers; the button appears on the landing page below your profile image, and shows up again in the sidebar once you're in the app. 

As far as new features go, it's not exactly groundbreaking—Netflix "hack" plug-ins like Netflix Roulette attempt to perform a similar function—but it fits with the company's oft-stated goal of reducing the time users spend looking for something to watch. That was always the rationale offered for controversial features like the "auto-play trailers" and last year's introduction of the Top 10, which gives you a sense of what other subscribers are checking out. 

It's all about keeping you watching on Netflix. But will it actually improve the user experience? Isn't endless scrolling an essential part of streaming? Or would you prefer to finish Breaking Bad and hit "shuffle" and let the first season of Ozark start playing on your TV? It depends on how much you like gambling with your leisure time.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.