How Netflix Introduced A Feature To Make Streaming More Like Regular TV

the crown season 4 netflix queen elizabeth ii olivia colman
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Netflix library of TV shows and movies is packed with offerings in just about any genre imaginable, which can make it difficult to choose what to watch. Well, now the streaming giant is taking steps to make the Netflix experience more like regular TV. A new feature is on the way that won't require viewers to choose shows to watch, with content streaming in real time.

The new feature for Netflix is called "Direct," according to Netflix, which describes the feature as "a web-based experience that's the same for everyone who watches it: a real-time service." Aimed at subscribers who don't want to decide what to watch, are still figuring Netflix out, or are looking to be surprised, Direct isn't launching internationally on the streamer, but rather in France.

France was chosen as the market for Netflix Direct due to the massive popularity of traditional television in that country, where the option of tuning into an airing show may be more appealing than perusing a massive library of shows to pick ones that you may or may not like. The feature will give French subscribers access to "some of the best French and European content on the service," including Family Business, La Casa de Papel, Unorthodox, and The Crown, the latter of which will soon debut its fourth season.

That said, not all French subscribers will have access to the Direct option just yet. Direct was initially rolled out to a "small number of members" on November 5. By the beginning of December, all French subscribers will have access to Direct. There are no details at this point as to whether or not Netflix plans to expand Direct to markets other than France.

Netflix received a huge streaming boost in the United States market in 2020, presumably due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in more people staying at home than usual and turning to Netflix for some TV options. Cord-cutting has become increasingly popular in recent years as well, making the traditional TV experience a thing of the past for some. Would Direct be worth pursuing with American subscribers as well as French?

The streaming giant does routinely try new things, ranging from a "random episode" feature to letting viewers adjust their playback speeds. Netflix finally delivered something that many users had wanted for ages back in February with the option to turn off autoplay, and the new Top 10 listing allows viewers to see what other subscribers are watching en masse.

From a content perspective, Netflix has experimented with a variety of shows, expanding beyond comedies and dramas. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was an interactive special that allowed viewers to guide the story, and offered a whole lot of possible endings. On the opposite end of the Black Mirror spectrum, there are options like Julie and the Phantoms that are musical.

Netflix has a habit of cancelling a lot of shows this year -- some of which are due to COVID restrictions -- so it should be interesting to see if Netflix Direct is a hit in France and whether than means expanding the experience to other markets. For now, you can find some big releases from the past year on our 2020 Netflix premiere schedule. If you want to enjoy a regular TV experience without Netflix, check out our 2020 fall TV premiere guide.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).