Netflix is trying out a 'Shuffle Play' button yet again

Netflix keeps trying to make shuffle happen.

netflix app
Ben Patterson/IDG

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First it tried a shuffle feature that picked a random episode of your favorite show, then it tested a “Play Something” option in the navigation bar. Now Netflix is at it again, floating a “Shuffle Play” button on the home screen of its connected TV app.

Variety reports that the new Shuffle Play button is currently available to a “portion” of Netflix’s worldwide subscriber base, and only on the Netflix app for connected TVs. It may appear below your user profile icon; in the “billboard” area of your home screen; or in the side navigation bar.

The Shuffle Play button doesn’t pick a Netflix video completely at random, Variety adds. Instead, it makes its choice based on Netflix’s vaunted recommendation engine, or according to recently sampled genres as well as titles you’ve added to “My List.”

This isn’t the first time that Netflix has toyed with a shuffle option. TechCrunch (which first reported the Shuffle Play story) notes that the on-demand giant tested a shuffle mode last year that would randomly pluck an episode of a favorite TV show, perfect for when you’re craving a dose of The Office (back when it was still available on Netflix, anyway). As recently as last month, Netflix tried out a “Play Something” option that appeared in the Android and Amazon Fire TV versions of its app.

Netflix hopes that the Shuffle Play button will help “make it easier for members to find something to watch,” a company spokesperson told Variety. As someone who’s wanted too many hours browsing the endless rows of “recommended for you” titles on the Netflix home screen, I can see the appeal of just having Netflix pick something for me.

Shuffle Play also strikes a chord in terms of the growing trend of “linear” streaming TV channels that let cord cutters indulge in old-school channel surfing. While a shuffle button isn’t the same as a live “linear” streaming TV channel, it does scratch the same itch of simply sitting back and seeing what’s on rather than having to actively pick a show.

Still, is the Netflix “shuffle” something that really needs to happen? Guess we’re about to find out.

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