The “net” in Netflix might as well stand for “network.” Faced with the prospect of losing licensed content as studios got into the streaming biz themselves, Netflix leaned heavily into original programming starting in 2013 with House of Cards. It now streams dozens of Netflix Originals, from Lupin and Stranger Things to award winners like The Crown and Ozark. There is life on Netflix after The Office.
The competition is fierce. Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock, and HBO Max are just a few of the video-streaming services from deep-pocketed backers fighting for eyeballs. That means Netflix has to be strategic—cancelling series (or opting not to save shows like Manifest) and greenlighting shows that wouldn’t (shouldn’t?) stand a chance anywhere else. With so much bingeable original content, it’s easy to forget that there’s a huge stock of TV shows and movies that change on a regular basis. So get some popcorn and get going.
You might be watching Netflix on the sofa by yourself, but you won’t be alone. Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers, so you’re never far from a fellow binge-watcher. Getting started is as easy as picking a show and pressing play. However, there are a few tricks that you can use to get the most out of your viewing experience.
Turn Off Autoplay Trailers
In a bid to showcase its original fare, Netflix will autoplay its trailers when you log on to find something to watch. Autoplay with sound, which can be quite annoying when you’re just trying to browse the app. Netflix heard your complaints, however, and added the option to turn off autoplay. On a desktop, click your account avatar on the top right, and go to Manage Profiles. Click your account and uncheck Autoplay previews while browsing on all devices.
Set a Sleep Timer
NFTimer (left) and iOS Clock app
Are you still watching? When Netflix asks this annoying question, the answer is often a rather shameful yes. But some of us like to drift off to episodes of Schitt’s Creek or some other comforting fare. After a few episodes of a given show, Netflix will eventually stop playback, display an “Are you still watching” alert, and go to sleep if you don’t respond.
But what if you want the app to stop after a set amount of time? Netflix is reportedly testing a sleep timer feature, though it has yet to roll it out. But there are workarounds.
On iOS, open the Clock app, go to Timer, and set it for how long you would like Netflix to play. Under When Timer Ends, select Stop Playing.
For Android, download NFTimer, which does the same thing. Make sure to tap the ellipses icon on the top right and enable screen locking; otherwise, when your timer runs out, your Netflix window will just reduce to a small, picture-in-picture window. With screen-locking enabled, your screen will go to sleep and Netflix will stop playing.
Start your timer on either OS, open Netflix, press play, and it will close when the timer expires.
Turn Off Post-Play
Another way to avoid continuous play as you sleep (or curb your binging) is to disable Netflix’s Post-Play feature, which automatically plays the next episode of the show a few seconds after the credits roll. Go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings, and uncheck the box that says Autoplay next episode in a series on all devices.
Browse Hidden Netflix Categories
Netflix has a huge library of content that can be hard to navigate. You can drill down by genre, but to get even more specific, consult Netflix-Codes.com. Whereas on the Netflix app, you can drill down to Thrillers, for example, Netflix-Codes breaks it down further into things like Spy thrillers, Supernatural thrillers, and Sci-Fi thrillers.
It does so by organizing Netflix’s own, secret category codes. You can click off Netflix-Codes.com and go there directly, or find the code and type it into your browser yourself, like this, (swapping out [INSERTNUMBER] for the code, of course):
You can also download the Better Browse for Netflix extension, which adds a new link to the Netflix site navigation to reveal all extended categories.
Host an Oscar or Emmys Party Year-Round
If you have trouble narrowing down what to watch on Netflix, head straight for the award winners. Netflix has a Celebrate the Oscars section broken down by genres, popularity, and even which ones are already on your list. It also just updated its Emmys section with 2021 nominees.
Get Better Recommendations
The only person you harm when you hate watch is yourself. If you don’t rate what you’ve seen, Netflix is going to think you liked it and recommend more of the same. In 2017, Netflix dumped its five-star ratings for a simple, Pandora-like thumbs up or down. So, if you really love something, the best way to discover more like it is to give it a thumbs up.
Ask Netflix to ‘Play Something’
Want to put an algorithm in charge of choosing what to watch? The “Play Something” button will automatically pick a TV show or film for you to watch based on your viewing history. Once you click it, Netflix will start showing you a random title. Click the remote to “Play Something Else,” which effectively changes the Netflix “channel” and shows you a new title. The feature is currently limited to the smart TV interface; it did not show up for us on mobile or via the browser when we tested it out in April.
Laugh It Off
Every app is trying to capture the addictive magic of TikTok these days, even Netflix. In March, it rolled out Fast Laughs on iOS, a scrollable feed of comedy clips from content available on Netflix. Fast Laughs appears to have evolved into just Clips; a recent scroll included non-comedy fare like Breaking Bad, Total Recall, and Silver Linings Playbook. If you find something you like, you can react, share, add it to your list, or start watching. For now, it’s only on iPhones.
Tell Your Own Stories
Whether you’re an Instagram influencer or not, you can still recommend Netflix shows and movies to followers and friends. Tap on a title and hit share to send it via a text message. You’ll also get the option to share right to Instagram Stories (with the ability to add emoji, text, GIFs, or a poll) and on other services like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, and more.
Turn on Audio Descriptions
When you listen to a show, you’re getting just part of the picture. The visually impaired often miss important cues that are made plain for the sighted. For the past few years, Netflix has been adding audio descriptions to some titles; it’s up to 1,654, as of this writing. Audio description provides voiceover descriptions of what’s onscreen and can be accessed by clicking the audio and subtitles option and selecting English – Audio Description on supported titles.
Change the Subtitles
Subtitles are available for most, if not all, the titles on Netflix. But the yellow lettering or typeface might not be legible for some viewers. Fortunately, it’s possible to make some changes. On Netflix.com and the Android app (the iOS app will tell you to go to the web), go to Account > [your profile] > Subtitle Appearance > Change for an array of options such as changing the typeface, letter coloring, background color, and text size.
Save on Mobile Data
It’s easy to chew through your entire mobile data package by streaming video on a mobile device, but Netflix lets you conserve cellular data use on iOS or Android. Navigate to App Settings > Cellular Data Usage, where you can restrict Netflix viewing to Wi-Fi only or opt for a data-saving mode.
Download for Offline Viewing
If you know you’ll be sans network connection, download a few episodes of Bridgerton or Kim’s Convenience to pass the time. Most Netflix Originals are available for download, but you’ll find some other shows and movies as well.
Click on a title and (when available), hit the download icon. Or, tap the Downloads button on the bottom menu and tap to find something to download. This is also where you’ll find downloaded content, and where you can delete it. Some titles will expire 48 hours after you first press play, so be aware if you’re going on an extended vacation without Wi-Fi access.
Android users can specify a download location (under App Settings) if they wish to store everything on an SD card. Another perk on Android: start watching before a download is complete. Those who lose Wi-Fi partway through or hit a data limit will see downloads paused. They’ll resume later, but anything that downloaded before the interruption will be viewable. This feature will soon be available on iOS.
On iOS and Android, there’s also an option called Smart Downloads. With this enabled, when you watch an episode in a series, the watched episode will be automatically deleted and the next episode will download. Turn this on or off via App Settings > Smart Downloads.
Manage Netflix Profiles
If you have more than one person using the same Netflix account, interests will likely get mixed, making for a rather confusing recommendation process. To make sure each user has the most personalized experience, give them their own profiles.
Each account allows up to five profiles, so your toddler won’t get a Fear Street Part Three recommendation, and you can relegate Never Have I Ever to your teenager’s list. Once profiles are set up, Netflix will ask who’s watching every time you sign on and take you to your private start page.
To get started, click your name on the top right and select Manage profiles. There you can edit, delete, or add new profiles, and select whether they need parental controls or not.
See Who Is Watching Your Account
Netflix has restrictions on how many people can watch from an account at a certain time: one ($8.99 per month), two ($13.99 per month), or four ($17.99 per month). But sharing can be hard, especially if someone is already logged on when you want to watch. In the past, Netflix would just tell you that there were other people already watching something on your account. Now, Netflix tells you which devices are being used, allowing you to figure out who’s blocking your next binge-watch (or if an ex is still using your account).
Kick People Off Your Netflix Account
Speaking of, if it’s time to log that ex out of your account, you can do more than change the password. Go into Account settings, select Sign out of all devices, and confirm it on the next screen. Everyone using the account—even you!—will have to re-login the next time, be it on a phone, tablet, or game console. It can take up to eight hours for it to hit all your devices.
Delete Your Netflix Watch History
We all have shows we feel guilty about watching. What if you don’t want dates, family members, or anyone else who you might be sitting down to watch a movie with you to know just how much Charmed you’ve watched? You can delete items from your viewing activity.
On Netflix.com, go to Account > Viewing Activity > View. Click the circle icon to the right of any embarrassing content to hide it from your viewing history. If you really want a clean slate, scroll to the bottom and click Hide All. Here, you can also really take stock of your life and download your entire viewing history.
Get the Latest
Every month, Netflix adds dozens of new shows and TVs (while removing others). Stay on top of what’s coming and going by clicking New & Popular (desktop) or Coming Soon (mobile). To add the title to your list when it comes out, click the “Remind me” bell icon.
Back to the Future
If you want to preview Netflix features before they get a wide release, go to Account > Settings > Test Participation and set the slider to On.
Ask Netflix to Add a Show or Movie
What if what you really, really want to watch isn’t on Netflix? Ask the company to add it by going to the Request TV Shows or Movies page and entering your suggestions there.
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