Netflix has confirmed that it's testing a new shuffle feature for certain TV shows.
The streaming service's new feature was first spotted by Android Police. From what we can tell, it starts playing random episodes of shows that Netflix thinks will mesh well with just dropping viewers in anywhere. It is being tested on Android at the moment, and it seems to work in two different ways. The first is a new “Play a Popular Episode” column on the Netflix home screen.
The other is a “random episode” button that pops up in the playback controls once you’ve started a show that Netflix thinks will work with it. The key here is Netflix's shuffle feature will only work with shows not reliant on you following a chronological order. Think: The Office, Friends, and Parks and Rec, which fans regularly re-watch, and the episode order doesn't really affect them.
We're thinking things like classic syndicated sitcoms, nature documentaries, or even anthology shows like Black Mirror or Love, Death, and Robots, where each episode is a standalone story, so it doesn’t matter when you start watching. Obviously, this isn’t going to work for some content. Shows like Stranger Things or The Last Kingdom need to be viewed in a specific order to make sense.
If you’re watching Friends for the first time, you might want to watch it in the order it aired as well, but browsing Netflix isn't always about keeping your eyes glued to the TV. How often are we looking for something to put on in the background as we play on our phones or laptops? That’s where this new feature could really help users out. Unfortunately, this is currently a limited test.
Netflix hasn’t announced any plans to fully launch the feature for all users. But we'll keep you posted as we learn more.