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Update: Did somebody at Disney+ read this? It appears that there has been an update to Disney+ overnight and a continue watching section has now been added to the app.
After two years of waiting, Disney+ has now been with us for just about two weeks. By basically any measure, the service can be called a success. Disney is touting an insane number of subscribers already. Original series like The Mandalorian and The Imagineering Story are getting rave reviews. Following some day one jitters, and a few cases that appear to be outliers, the service is also largely stable. Whatever device you're using to watch Disney+, you can do so without issue.
Well, maybe there's one issue. Two weeks in, and it's too complicated to pick up a series or movie right where you left off. While basically every other streaming service will serve up whatever you were in the middle of watching when you log back in front and center, Disney+ just doesn't.
Right now, the home page of Disney+ is pretty stagnant. The first thing you can see is the service's list of original content, which is far from surprising, or a problem. From there, we find several other categories to scroll through. One is a list of shows recommended "for you" though it's far from clear to me that it is actually taking my viewing habits into account yet. The rest are just general categories for different sorts of content. What's missing is a list of Recently Watched programs.
If what you were watching was one of those original programs, then you're fine, because the slide you need to select is only a few spaces away, but for anything else, getting back to your show can be a pain. because you have to go find it rather than having it presented to you.
For the first week or so, things were even more annoying. The only button available for each show simply read "play." If you hit play on something you were already watching, Disney+ was supposed to pick up where you left off, but I found that functionality spotty at best, and based on social media, I wasn't the only one having problems with this feature.
If the show didn't pick up where you left off, you had to fast forward to the last thing you remembered seeing. If it did pick up where you left off, but you wanted to start the show over, you had to rewind everything. If you were in the middle of a series, you needed to remember which episode was the one you watched last.
Now, at the very least, there is a "resume" button for things you've started, and it works for series as well as movies.
However, you may still need to dig when it comes to finding the show or movie you want, whether you want to start it or restart it. Because there's no recently watched listing, it means you're digging into the Disney+ search function every single time you want to watch the thing.
If the show or movie you want is popular, a major Marvel or Disney release, then you're likely to find it on the home page, or after a simply click over to the appropriate section.
However, Disney+ is massive, there is so much available to watch on it already, and if you've already seen the really big name movies and series, and there's a good chance you have, then you might have started watching something a bit more obscure that you've never seen before.
For me, I discovered the first week of episodes from the original Mickey Mouse Club back in 1955 were on the service. The series was never publicized as a launch title, so I found it largely by accident, but it was a welcome discovery. This was a show that was new when my mother was a kid, so certainly, I've never seen it beyond a handful of clips from Disney documentaries and the like.
Certainly, this show isn't being heavily promoted by Disney, it's the sort of thing that's likely to only appeal to older viewers looking for that nostalgia kick or geeks like me interested in older Disney. That means finding it on the home page or even on the Disney page isn't likely. Even if it's there, in the list of things recommended for me, because I watch a lot of other really old stuff, it would take some digging to get to, and I couldn't be sure it was even there until after I and scrolled through the entire thing.
This is a first world problem of course, having to use the search function isn't a big deal, it's not enough of a reason to unsubscribe or anything, but it is part of the user experience. The experience of finding content simply isn't that great.
When I want to watch more of The Mickey Mouse Club, I have to head over to the search option and start scrolling around the keyboard to spell out Mickey Mouse. It's not a big deal if I'm watching on a computer or tablet, but most of the time I'm using the app in my television or my Xbox depending on which room I'm in.
Alternatively you can add the item to your watchlist, which does cut through a few steps, but depending on how much you use that feature, the list can get quite long on its own.
And this seems like the sort of thing that that would have been handled by now. I waited to voice displeasure on this topic because I was open to the possibility that this feature just wasn't fully baked at launch for some reason, and would be around in due course. With the resume button, that's exactly what happened, but the fact that a recently watched list didn't come along with that tells us this feature isn't just something that needed finishing up.
Having said that, hopefully we won't be waiting too much longer for it. It's really the only thing Disney+ is missing, beyond some more episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club for me to binge, of course.
The resume button showed up with zero fanfare, and so I expect eventually a recently viewed list will do the same at some point, and we're probably talking days or weeks before we see it, rather than months or more. I'm certainly not the only one asking for something like this and, at the end of the day user feedback is going to make Disney decide where efforts get placed.
And if, somehow, this feature was never considered until now, it's likely at the top of the priority list and being dealt with as we speak.