Netflix’s auto-play feature is the absolute worst

Scene from Netflix's The Walking Dead shown on an LG OLED TV hanging on wall in living room
(Image credit: Future)

I absolutely loathe auto-play. What was designed as a time-saving feature to let you skip onto a show’s next episode during an epic binge session on your favorite streaming service has become a daily nuisance. Auto-play features need to get in the bin… then said bin needs to get in the sea.

I can’t remember when auto-play first became a thing on Netflix, but it feels like years at this point. Since the Big N introduced this credits-skipping feature, it’s been rolled out on pretty much all of the best streaming services. And that’s in no way a good thing.

Such is my hatred for auto-play, I physically screamed while taking the photos for this article. Twice. Just as I had the perfect snap lined up to encapsulate my disdain for auto-play features, the next episode of Derry Girls was on my screen before I could photograph the problem. That’s both apt and infuriating. But mostly infuriating. 

Ah, Derry Girls. What. A. Show. This utterly charming, brilliantly absurd comedy about five teenagers growing up in the mid-90s during the final years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland is one of the best pieces of television the UK’s Channel 4 has ever greenlit. It’s silly, it’s irreverent, it packs stomach-punching pathos when you least expect it, and most of all, it’s reinvigorated my hatred for auto-play. 

Netflix TV show Derry Girls image on wall-hanging OLED TV in living room

Auto-play did its level best to ruin the final episode of Derry Girls for me. (Image credit: Future)

Play the price  

I’ve recently been catching up with Derry Girls – which finished in mid-2022 after three pitch perfect seasons – across both Netflix and All 4. And while the viewing experience has generally been wonderfully side-splitting, both streaming services’ auto-play features have irritated the hell out of me at several points.

Watching the show on my Apple TV 4K (2022) box, the red mist has descended on more than one occasion while auto-play skipped through the end credits before I could reach my remote. As someone who almost exclusively watches their TV in a prone, slovenly position on his sofa, reaching that little metallic gizmo is more challenging than you’d think. 

Part of the reason Derry Girls should be the poster… well, ‘girl’, for the death of auto-play is its immaculate soundtrack. If you’re a child of the ‘90s like myself, the audio buffet of banger after banger it serves up is like nothing else I’ve experienced. 

Gangster Trippin by Fatboy Slim. Alright by Supergrass. Corona’s hypnotic The Rhythm of the Night. Orla’s gloriously unaware dance through the cobbled streets of Derry to the uplifting beats of Sunchyme by Dario G during the series finale. East 17’s Stay Another Day… alright, maybe ‘banger’ is a stretch for that last tune.  

My favorite song in Derry Girls is Dreams by the Cranberries. Its lilting chorus acts as the unofficial theme tune for the show’s biggest moments, and more than once, auto-play stopped me from listening to this awesome melody during the end credits. Weeks after I watched the final episode, my ears are still offended. 

The Derry Girls season 3 finale is another example of auto-play’s ability to suck your soul from your body. With around three minutes to go of the last ever episode, the show’s pivotal scene suddenly shrinks down to a small box on the screen of my LG C2 OLED just so Channel 4 can try to entice me to binge on another programme. 

It’s unforgivable when you take into account just how good that final scene is. With the girls casting their ballots for The Good Friday Agreement referendum, Dreams plays in the background as the show dovetails between the actors in their voting booths and real-world news footage from 1998. It’s a phenomenal piece of television… and one that I had to squint at while watching because autoplay decided to letterbox the scene as I struggled to find my Apple TV remote. The heartiest of boo-urns. 

Netflix auto-play feature happening on OLED TV showing Still Game

I didn’t see the ending of Still Game’s ‘Saucy’ episode for years because of auto-play. Also, Still Game is Scotland’s best export.  (Image credit: Future)

Walking Dead wrong  

My hatred for this picture-shrinking, credits-bypassing phenomenon goes back to 2016 when Netflix was still streaming The Walking Dead. Back in ye olden days of season 5, just before the AMC zombie hit became a tedious time sink, Netflix’s auto-play features ruined the biggest reveal of the show for me. That would be the return of Lenny James’ Morgan Jones: the best character in Walking Dead history.  

Thanks to auto-play, I initially missed Morgan’s post-credits cameos in the season 5 opener ‘No Sanctuary’, and the mid-season classic ‘Coda’. The latter appearance is my favorite sequence in The Walking Dead: a quiet, introspective reintroduction to a character who has found a newfound peace in a world gone to ruin. 

Ludicrously, auto-play nixes these awesome TWD moments even in 2023. The show might now reside on Disney Plus, but the same credits-killing features will still rob you of these moments unless you’re quick with your remote. 

I know certain streaming services let you disable auto-play if you dig into their menus. Still, the fact this feature isn’t advanced or clever enough to detect a key post-credits sequence is a major fault. Imagine if Disney Plus auto-played to the next MCU movie before you could see that key Thanos reveal / introduction to Wakanda / Howard the Duck cameo. Marvel fans would (justifiably) lose it. 

My disdain for auto-play probably says a lot about my couch potato demeanour, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still the worst. The sooner a streaming service can come up with an algorithm that can intelligently read when a post-credits sequence is about to pop up or learn my preference for listening to music during the credits, the better. Auto-play, I hate you. 

Dave Meikleham

Dave is a freelancer who's been writing about tech and video games since 2006, with bylines across GamesRadar+, Total Film, PC Gamer, and Edge. He's been obsessed with all manner of AV equipment ever since his parents first bought him a hideously garish 13-inch CRT TV (complete with built-in VCR, no less) back in 1998. Over the years he’s owned more plasma and OLED TVs than he can count. On an average day, he spends 30% of his waking existence having mild panic attacks about vertical banding and dead pixels.