The “net” in Netflix might as well stand for “network.” The streaming service built up a following for its original programming with House of Cards, made us glad that binge-watching isn’t illegal with Orange is the New Black and Mindhunter, and made us unable to l’eggo of Stranger Things.
With so many choices, it’s easy to let things stack up in the queue. A new season of Jessica Jones arrives on March 8, seven seasons of Portlandia are keeping the dream of the 90s alive, and even the Queen likes The Crown, which dramatizes the early days of her monarchy. Whatever you’re into, you’re sure to find something; Netflix also has a wealth of comedy specials and documentaries.
Netflix shows no sign of slowing down; it could spend up to $8 billion this year on original shows and movies. It’s already won over Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, who is producing new shows for Netflix, and American Horror Story and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, who will be doing the same in a deal worth up to $300 million.
You might be watching Netflix on the sofa by yourself, but you won’t be alone. Netflix now has more than 117 million members as of December 2017. 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.
1Download for Offline Viewing
In 2016, Netflix finally introduced the ability to download movies and shows locally for offline viewing! So, if you have plans to be sans network connection for a prolonged period of time, download a few episodes of Dark or watch Mudbound 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 hamburger menu on the top left () and select “Available to Download” to see everything you can download. Find downloaded content via the hamburger menu > My Downloads. Android users can also specify a download location (under App Settings) if they wish to store everything on an SD card.
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 that each user has the most personalized experience, create your own profile. Each account allows up to five profiles so your toddler won’t get a Breaking Bad recommendation, and you can relegate Riverdale to your teenager’s list. Once profiles are set up, Netflix will ask who’s watching every time you sign on (above) and take you to your private start page.
To get started, click your name on the top right of Netflix.com, select Account > My Profile > Manage profiles. There you can edit, delete, or add new profiles. On mobile, select the hamburger icon (), tap the profile name, and select “Add Profile” from the pop-up.
3Know Who's WatchingNetflix has restrictions on how many people can watch from an account at a certain time: one ($7.99 per month), two ($10.99 per month), or four ($13.99 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 two (or three) 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).
4Is Anybody Listening?Google Home knows the sound of your voice and what you like to watch. Welcome to the terrifying but useful Internet of Things. Put it to work for you by programming your Google Home to recognize your voice with Voice Match so you can ask it to load up your Netflix queue. To activate, open the Google Home app, select Menu > Google Assistant > More Settings > Videos and Photos > Netflix > Link, which will connect Google Home to your Netflix app.
5Shut Them OutIf 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, game console, or whatever. It can take up to eight hours for it to hit all your devices.
6Get Better RecsThe 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. Netflix recently 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.
7Discovering the Best and Popular TitlesMost of the top categories on Netflix’s home page are recommendations for you based on your ratings and activity, making it difficult to find the latest additions or some of the most popular shows or movies. A great resource is Instantwatcher.com, which provides a simple two-column list of the most popular movies and TV shows in the past 24 hours, as well as the latest releases. The Most Popular list also tracks the changes in rank while the New & Noteworthy section includes a Netflix rating along with a Rotten Tomatoes ranking where available. And be sure to keep tabs on PCMag’s full list of what’s leaving and coming to Netflix each month.
8Just Your Type
To search through every genre Netflix has to offer, go to a browser, type in http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/[INSERTNUMBER], and then consult this list for the numbers that correspond with a genre you’d like to peruse. Replace [INSERTNUMBER] in the URL above with those numbers, and voila. This link, for example, takes you to all the content categorized under “Action & Adventure.”
You can also download the Netflix Super Browse extension for Chrome ($1.99/year) or Firefox. It adds a new link to the Netflix site navigation to reveal all extended categories, even those in other languages from other countries.
9RemixIn the 80s and 90s, feelings were often conveyed via mixtapes. These days, you can create a Flixtape, or a customized Netflix queue. Come up with a name for your Flixtape, and Netflix will suggest three movies or shows that match its feeling (you can change them). Then add six titles of your own, personalize a cover for it, and send it via email or text or share it on Twitter or Facebook.
10The Secret HistoryWe 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 now delete items from your viewing activity. Log in to Netflix.com and go to Account > Viewing Activity. Click the “x” on the right to delete your more embarrassing selections.
11Change the SubtitlesSubtitles 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. Go to Account > My Profile > Subtitle appearance for an array of options such as changing the typeface, letter coloring, background color, and text size.
12Use Your Phone as a Backup RemoteThe Netflix iOS app can sync to select TVs and streaming media players, while the Android app syncs to PS3, PS4, PS4 Pro, and PS Vita, letting you use your mobile device as a remote. Just make sure the device you’re using to stream and your phone are both on the same Wi-Fi network, and then open the Netflix app on your phone and navigate away. Microsoft offers the Xbox app for those who want to control its console on their phone.
13Turn Off Post-PlaySitting down to watch just one episode of your favorite show isn’t possible anymore thanks to Netflix’s Post-Play feature, which automatically plays the next episode of the show a few seconds after the credits roll. If, for some reason, you want to turn off this feature, go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings, and uncheck the box that plays the next episode automatically. You can also make changes to the data usage per screen.
14Share and Share AlikeIf you’re watching something on your tablet or smartphone and just have to share it, you can do that right from the app. Go to the details page of the movie or show you want to share and select the Share icon (a square with an upward-facing arrow on iOS, the the three-pronged button on Android) and text it, email it, or send it through social media.
15Save on Mobile DataIt’s not hard to chew through your entire mobile data package in no time by streaming video on a mobile device. Netflix is actually here to help. It has a feature that lets you conserve cellular data use on iOS or Android. Navigate to App Settings and turn off the “Set Automatically” default. Then pick a usage that fits you best: Wi-Fi-only may be the best option for some, but you can set a low/medium/high that has impact on not only how much data you use, but also picture quality.
16Room With a ViewIf your own living room is one you’d rather not watch a movie in, grab your Gear VR and cozy up in a Colorado-ish cabin. The experience is way more enthralling than it sounds. On the Oculus home screen select Store, find the Netflix app, select Install, and when it finishes installing sign in to your Netflix account.
17Back to the FutureIf you want to preview Netflix features before they get a wide release, go to Account > Settings > Test Participation and make sure the slider is set to On.
18Keyboard ShortcutsWatching Netflix on a laptop? Get the most control by never using the trackpad or mouse with these quick keyboard shortcuts:
Shift+Right arrow—Fast Forward
Up arrow—Volume Up
Down arrow—Volume Down
19Subvert the VPN Crackdown
Netflix cuts lots of different deals with content makers (networks and studios behind the films and TV shows), and each deal is different in each country. It’s why in the US you may get to see something you can’t in the UK. For years, travelers (and annoyed users!) have got around this by using virtual private network (VPN) software/services to make it look like they’re in another country—typically the US. But as of January 2016, Netflix has been cracking down on this practice. As makeuseof.com notes, “Netflix is extremely vigilant about blocking VPNs, so you’ll need to bite the bullet and get a paid VPN to fight the company’s constant blocks.” PCMag has a roundup of the Best VPNs for Netflix, including NordVPN.
20Test Your Speed
Netflix sucks up internet bandwidth like a Hoover eats dust. Probably the top complaint it gets is from customers getting a bad video experience, but that’s seldom Netflix’s fault. It’s been at war with ISPs over this for a while, sometimes even paying ISPs like Comcast for direct access to servers (and faster service for you).
Now, Netflix has a new tool in its arsenal to cast shade back on the providers: Fast.com. Go to that URL and without being asked you’ll get your download speed tested, showing results in Megabits per second (Mbps). It’s like an ultra-simplified version of Speedtest; the difference is, Fast.com connects you directly to Netflix servers. Definitely check either of those—both available globally—before you go bitching to Netflix. Also check out Netflix’s ISP Speed Index, where it keeps a running tally of just which ISPs are performing best for its customers.