7 tools to make streaming simpler, smarter, and more fun
You've got better things to do than scroll endlessly in search of something to watch.
The sheer number of streaming services available today means more content to watch, more places to watch it, and a growing number of tools and add-ons that can improve your viewing experience beyond what’s built into the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus.
From working out how long a binge-watching session is going to take, to selecting something to watch at random, these out-of-the-box features can augment your favorite streaming apps in a variety of useful ways.
If you’ve got something specific in mind that you definitely want to see, JustWatch will tell you which streaming services currently have the show or movie you seek. It taps into the databases for Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, YouTube TV, and others so you’ll always know where something is showing. If the film or series you’re after is available to rent or purchase digitally, then JustWatch can direct you to the right platforms (the Amazon, Apple, or Google stores online, for example).
[Related: 9 ways to get the most out of Prime Video]
Can I Binge?
Before you sit down to start streaming a new show, it’s useful to know how long it will take you to cruise from start to finish—you might be after something you can wrap up in a week, or an epic tale that takes months to watch in full. Can I Binge? is perfect for this: Type in a show and how much time you can commit to it, and it will tell you how many episodes you’ll have to watch each day, week, or month, so you can pace your bingeing accordingly. For example, if you want to get through the entirety of Twin Peaks in a month, you’ll need to settle in for two episodes a day.
You can’t always be in the same physical space as other people when you want to watch something on a streaming app together, and that’s where Teleparty comes in. Formerly known as Netflix Party, this browser extension for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge can set up virtual watching parties in minutes and sync content across services including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO Max. It also includes a chat box so you can discuss what’s happening with your friends or family members. The core features are free, but throw the developers $5 a month and you’ll unlock the ability to use emojis in the chat box and participate in real-time voice chat for an even more intimate feel.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) remains one of the best tools on the web for the serious streamer, whether you want to check up on an actor’s name or need to find out when a particular movie or show first aired. You can access IMDb from your laptop or your phone, putting a wealth of information at your fingertips that can help you choose something to watch (genre categories and user ratings), keep track of your viewing (the watchlist feature), and poke around behind the scenes of movies and shows (despite its name, the site covers everything on the small screen, too).
One of Netflix’s newest features is Play Something, which selects a show or movie for you based on what you generally watch. For now it’s only available within the Netflix smart TV app for a select group of users (check the navigation menu on the left to see if you’re one of them), but if you don’t have it, something like Randflix for Chrome and Edge can plug the gap—it adds a Random button on every show page that will launch a random episode of that show. Similar tools are available for other streaming services as well—Hulu Random Episode Button is a browser extension for Chrome and Edge that works with Hulu, while the Ceros site can choose Disney Plus movies at random.
[Related: Hack Netflix with these add-ons and tricks]
Reelgood acts as a command center for all the streaming services that you’re signed up to. Covering platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO Max, it lets you keep track of what’s available on each service—including what’s just arrived and what’s about to leave. You can use Reelgood to discover new movies and shows to watch, and to keep track of everything you’ve seen to date as well. We particularly like the Reelgood Roulette feature, which picks a movie or show for you to watch based on filters such as genre and viewer rating—perfect for those times when you’re looking for something new.
This is just for Netflix, but it’s a good one: Netflix Codes gives you access to a host of hidden categories that Netflix uses to sort its library, from sports documentaries to experimental movies. All you need to do is type the URL “www.netflix.com/browse/genre/” into your browser’s address bar, followed by the category code. Netflix Codes makes it easy to see what’s available (with direct links to the categories so you won’t actually need to do any typing), and these codes can lead you to content you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise—from movies with martial arts in them to flicks based on children’s books.