Netflix Will Finally Let You Remove Movies And Shows From Your Continue Watching List

Back in the days of VHS, if you failed to complete a film, the magnetic tape inside the cassette would stay wound to the point where you stopped it and removed it from your VCR. The stalwart and reliable cassette would stay wound to that exact point for as long as you wanted, waiting — sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a decade or more — for you to return and complete the film. If you failed to rewind the cassette, it would merely stay wound to the end forever, presumably waiting to incur a fee from your local video store (Be kind. Rewind). 

When DVDs began flooding the market, it provoked a series of complaints from those raised on VHS: A DVD would not hold your place (at least not in the early days of DVD players). If you stopped a DVD and removed it from the machine, you would have to start from the beginning upon reinsertion. This was frustrating for those who watched their films in shifts, or were interrupted for any reason. Eventually DVD players became more sophisticated, but even then, not all of them would think to save your spot for you. This was also a bugaboo in the early days of streaming, and for a few years, a streaming service would also drop your place when you turned off a video. This was especially frustrating to those of us who had dodgy internet connections and were booted off of streaming services on the regular, and who then spent far too many hours of their lives fast-forwarding through a streaming release to find where we left off.  

Luckily, streaming technology also quickly developed, and soon Netflix was good enough to put a bookmark on everything — everything — a viewer might have touched, even for a second. Indeed, Netflix became too good at saving your spot, lining up an entire row of titles that you hadn't yet completed. This included shows you merely started and then immediately lost interest in, as well as films you turned off in the middle of their credits. The CONTINUE WATCHING row was an ever-growing feature on your Netflix account, choking your eyeballs like a digital kudzu vine, always growing larger with no way to prune it down besides playing out every single video to its bitter, bitter end.

Finally, mercifully, Netflix — as reported by Collider — has announced that it will be adding a delete feature to your lineup, allowing you to clear out all the clutter.

Call Technical Support

The ability to organize and curate your own watchlist comes to the game curiously late. While Netflix and other streaming services allow you to cordon off your own personal playlist from others in your household, and allow you to add — and now clear out — whatever titles you like on your own personal playlist, there still appears to be no way to reorganize said titles into whatever order you like with any sort of personally desired taxonomy or clarity. One can search for individual titles, or type the name of a particular actor or director into the search bar, but there has never been, on any streaming service save for The Criterion Channel, a master list of all the service's titles listed alphabetically.

Conduct this experiment: Go to your favorite streaming service and search for "all films, alphabetically." Firstly, this can a multiple-step process, differentiating TV from films, and will involve scrolling past several "search by genre" options. Once you find the films listed, it's in the same poster format as the main page. And here's the kicker: Those lists aren't actually complete. The "all films" list on Disney+ is not all of their films. Add to this a lot of glitches and hiccups in the typical streaming service interface, and you have a stress headache just thinking about it, don't you? A lot of these problems arise from various tech issues, and most of the streaming services may use different types of tech, causing user interface inconsistencies from platform to platform. 

The main problem may be that few of the streaming services bothered to hire consumer experts, poll people on how they wanted their services to look, or find out how people want their online subscription libraries to be organized. Personally, this author is a stickler for organization, and being able to create an extensive playlist of favorites, a list of upcoming titles to watch, the order in which they go, and a master list of titles by year (including the dates on which they'll leave the service), would be the bee's knees. But none of those things are possible on any of the streaming services. Indeed, the only service that offered anything close to an easy-to-navigate personal playlist was Quibi.

The Philosophy of Bad Organization

We've seen there's a problem with user interface. So why are streaming services reluctant to make any kind of significant technical and taxonomic overhauls? 

We can only theorize, but maybe the current "row by row" design is meant to steer a viewer's eye toward the more recent offerings put out by the service's in-house studio. The new films and TV shows are, after all, meant to be the ones to take up the most air in the room, cost the most to make, and attract the greatest amount of advertising dollars. Enormous back catalogues of old favorites and legit classics don't move the needle unless you're The Criterion Channel or some other similarly curated library. Logging onto Netflix, you may find it hard to scroll off of the newest hot TV show they are selling this week. 

Also, when each film is categorized under several genres, you'll start to see the same films pop up over and over again through various searches, steering you toward those titles. Netflix may have thousands of films to choose from, but their catalogue seems to serve as packing material around the Tiffany in-house product they're hocking. Each studio with their own streaming service — Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros. — has access to near-bottomless film libraries stretching back to the dawn of cinema, and yet they refuse to include as many titles as possible on their streaming services. 

This is because, I theorize, they're shifting away from cinema in general. The streaming service is not secondary to theaters or to films anymore. Most people have been consuming films primarily at home since the inception of VHS rental stores, and having a cable-TV-like channel full of new content is the glorious model the studios seem to want. An ill-curated, difficult-to-use streaming service is not secondary to anything. It's the forefront. It's the bow of the ship. Anything the services can do to get your eyeballs onto their exclusive, new content, they're going to do — even if that means confusing and tricking you. Give them another 25 years, and the services may actually be easy to use!