Netflix giveth and Netflix taketh away. It giveth rad ’80s hairdos with Stranger Things; it taketh critical thinking skills with Goop. One of its worst “gifts,” however, has been the autoplaying previews—with sound!—that burst forth from your TV screen like a Ridley Scott alien if you dare to leave a selection highlighted for more than a moment. Today, that’s changing with a new option in your Netflix settings.
This may not sound like a serious problem in the grand scheme of national and universal problems, but it remains deeply annoying. Many have been the times that my family wrapped up a Sunday night episode of The Great British Baking Show only to have some wildly inappropriate-for-families preview clip begin to play. (“Daddy, what does ‘Don’t F*** With Cats’ mean?”)
Netflix was so proud of this autoplay-with-sound achievement that, in a 2016 press release, it talked up its “new television user interface that uses video more extensively to bring content alive in real time and helps members decide whether to click play.” For Netflix, this was great because it led to more people watching more content. Which it probably did! I certainly tried a few things I would not have tried otherwise. But there was no way to turn it off; I soon felt nearly assaulted by the Netflix app running on my Roku.
Netflix users, who were forced to lunge for the mute button moments after finishing an episode, had similar feelings; they complained about this behavior for so long without response that many gave up hope of succor.
But on Thursday, the almighty Netflix algorithm heard our puny human cries and has taken pity upon us. Netflix users can now switch off both autoplaying previews and the “autoplay the next episode of series” feature. Simply log in to your Netflix account on a Web browser, select “Playback settings,” and tick or untick the two boxes that now appear there. Bam! (This may not work immediately, but switching profiles should force the change through.)
The news brought immediate relief to the Ars Orbiting HQ. A selection of (printable) responses:
Sam Machkovech: “Netflix did not clarify which users ever found this feature useful. I’ve reached out for clarification, as I’ve yet to find a single person who says so.”
Jim Salter: “Now I can actually read the preview for each show without the need to compulsively click to another one before the super loud preview can start playing.”
Scott Johnson: “As someone who almost never watches more than one episode at a time, both boxes are getting unchecked into the sun.”
Dan Goodin: “Autopreviews are especially obnoxious when they show kids stuff they’re not allowed to watch. Now, if only Amazon would follow suit.”
Not all Ars staffers offered words of praise, though. Editor Aaron Zimmerman lamented, “As an enthusiast of blaring, autoplaying ads that no one asked for and everyone hates, this is devastating news.”