Marathon viewers of Lost, Breaking Bad, and Arrested Development rejoice: Netflix today introduced a "post-play" feature that's explicitly designed so you never have to leave your couch again, save to restock on snacks. With post-play, Netflix will now automatically fire up the next episode of the program you're watching as soon as the credits on the one you're watching roll. If you do nothing, the next episode starts in 15 seconds. And if you want to select a different episode in the series, you can do so within post-play.
Post-play is similar to a tactic cable networks often use when airing large blocks of the same show, such as when USA runs its day-long "Law & Order" marathons. Often those networks will move up an episode's final commercial break to use the last 30 seconds or so of the current episode as a seamless segue into the next one, sans interruptions. It's also similar to YouTube's push for channels that bundle relevant videos together so users don't have to look for a new video to watch every two minutes. All, of course, have the same end goal: Design a viewing experience that requires as little action as possible from the viewer and keeps them using your service longer. But the idea is potentially the most powerful for a service like Netflix, where many users often settle in expressly to watch multiple episodes in one sitting. Netflix already has the advantage of having users who want to view for long stretches; it's just making it even easier for those users to stay right where Netflix wants them: in front of the screen.
Netflix has also considered viewers who aren't watching serialized television shows, but perhaps are just tuning in to watch a single movie. For those users, Netflix will have a few suggested picks waiting for you at the end of the movie, much like the related videos that pop up at the ends of YouTube videos. If none of those pique your fancy, you can just go back to browsing Netflix yourself.
[Image: Flickr user amira_a]