Netflix launches TV channel-style function to fix its biggest problem

Abby Robinson
·3-min read

From Digital Spy

When it comes to Netflix, more is definitely better. The streaming platform has a seemingly endless and varied array of options that can satisfy any craving.

In the mood for a heart-in-your-mouth thriller? There's a Netflix show for that. Your 2-year-0ld needs entertaining while you respond to emails? There's a Netflix show for that. Christmas films to suit the whole family? There's – well, you get the idea.

But there is a flip side to what, on the surface, is a big tick in Netflix's favour.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Having so much choice can actually invoke a sort of paralysis. You want to sample everything, but unlike the buffet at your dad's 50th, you can't really pile it all on at once.

You could certainly give it a go, hopping from one series to another, but it wouldn't make for a particularly satisfying viewing experience.

When faced with an abundance of options, the desire to experience the lot is psychology 101.

Photo credit: CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX
Photo credit: CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX

Netflix is attempting to address that complaint with one of its latest developments.

Direct is a linear content channel, which essentially means one show or movie will be broadcast at a time, back to back, like your BBCs and your ITVs.

It doesn't matter when you tune in, the schedule remains unchanged, which is not what we expect from Netflix.

It's currently available to a portion of subscribers in France via the web browser only, with plans to make it more widely available (in France) in early December.

Chatting to Variety, a Netflix spokesperson said: "In France, watching traditional TV remains hugely popular with people who just want a 'lean back' experience where they don't have to choose shows.

"Maybe you're not in the mood to decide, or you're new and finding your way around, or you just want to be surprised by something new and different."

Easy breezy viewing appears to be the driving force behind Direct, but could there be another motive?

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

There have been mutterings over the years about the possibility of adverts encroaching on the platform, and while it's never come to fruition, this would certainly be a way of justifying that decision without impacting the regular ol' Netflix.

As of January this year, the company was still refusing to go down the ad route, and there's been no mention of that here, but the game, as we all know, can change at any moment.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Direct is currently only available to Netflix subscribers, but if it proves popular, we also wouldn't rule out the possibility of a cheaper package for non-Netflix customers who want to give it a whirl.

Plus, if that does happen, it could well attract more people to sign up. If you watch an episode of Stranger Things, for example, there's a high probability that you're going to want to binge the rest.

And therein lies one of the potential weaknesses of Direct. All of its content is selected from the existing Netflix library, which means the temptation to lie horizontal as you tear through a series in a single day won't disappear, rendering this new experiment somewhat needless.

Photo credit: Sam Taylor/Netflix - Netflix
Photo credit: Sam Taylor/Netflix - Netflix

It's one of many tests that have been greenlit by its key decision-makers, from a shuffle feature to altering playback speeds, as Netflix continues to work out what is best for its customers and in turn, its pockets.

But will Direct prove a hit, and potentially usher in a new era of Netflix viewing?

Only time will tell.

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