Netflix is testing a feature that looks remarkably like a channel. Initially available in France through its web site, ‘Direct’ offers a sequential selection of programming that is immediately available to view. Perhaps on-demand services like Netflix could still learn a trick or two from television. Serendipity, or rather the skill of channel schedulers, together with appropriate promotions and continuity presentation, has traditionally been an important part of the viewing experience.

“Maybe you’re not in the mood to decide, or you’re new and finding your way around, or you just want to be surprised by something new and different,” said Emily Grewal. Users can click on the ‘Direct’ button at the top right of the page “and lean back and enjoy”.

Netflix Direct

The rollout started with a selection of users in France and will extend to all those in France by the start of December. It is currently only available on the web, rather than in the applications on set-top boxes through distribution deals with telco operators like Orange and SFR.

It seems that Netflix is still experimenting with ways to navigate the apparently endless choice of programmes to find something that viewers might want to watch.

In August informitv reported that Netflix was testing a ‘shuffle play’ feature that presents a programme recommended based on user profile. At the time it said it would assess the usage of the feature to determine whether to offer it as part of the service.

We have long suggested that Netflix could be viewed as another channel, if only a barker channel promoting its programming and providing an entry point to the service.