After Josh Centers looked into the Reelgood and JustWatch video discovery services (see “A Million Streams and Nothing to Watch? Reelgood and JustWatch to the Rescue!,” 21 June 2019), I stumbled on not one but two partial solutions to the problem of Netflix assaulting us with autoplay previews (see “#DeathToAutoPlay—No More Audio and Video That Plays Automatically!,” 6 February 2019).
Reelgood to the Rescue, Sort Of
It turns out that Reelgood publishes an Apple TV app as part of its iOS Reelgood app. Although the app is simple—it doesn’t let you do any of the searching or browsing that you can do in the iOS app or the Web app—it does provide one key feature: you can open a movie or TV show on one of your Reelgood watchlists in Netflix directly from the Reelgood app (with a brief pause for you to select your account if you have multiple Netflix accounts).
That means you can use the Netflix app only for watching, and you don’t have to subject yourself to Netflix’s user-hostile interface just to get to your show.
I say the Reelgood Apple TV app is a “partial” solution for two reasons. First, although it can open a movie or TV show episode in the Netflix app, and it’s easy to return to Reelgood afterward by pressing the Menu button, the Reelgood app doesn’t know you finished watching. So you have to mark each one as watched when you’re done by clicking the Seen It button. When you do that, Reelgood moves movies to the Watched list or, for TV shows, presents the next episode.
Second, although we also watch some shows in Amazon Prime Video, Reelgood can’t perform the same trick to open shows in the Amazon Prime Video app. That’s disappointing since it means we can’t just initiate all watching from the Reelgood app.
Watch Better with WatchAid
While I was doing my background checking on the Reelgood app, I ran across a mention of WatchAid, another app that lets you search for TV shows, add them to a queue, and then initiate watching directly from the app. As with Reelgood, WatchAid provides an iOS app with an Apple TV adjunct. Unlike Reelgood, you can use WatchAid’s Apple TV app entirely on its own, or sync it with your iOS devices. If you put WatchAid on the top row of your Apple TV’s main screen, it even shows preview thumbnails for your shows when you have the icon selected.
Initially, WatchAid seemed like a complete win for us, since it can open shows in both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (plus other services), and when you exit out of the destination app by pressing the Menu button, WatchAid asks if you’d like to mark that episode as watched.
WatchAid also lets you populate your queue from within the Apple TV app. It lacks a category or genre browser, and its search capability is fussy due to the standard Apple TV search interface, but when you do find a show, you can follow it or view episodes to pick up in the middle. Just select the show you want to watch next, and WatchAid asks if you want to mark later shows as not yet watched.
On the downside, WatchAid’s database is less complete and less accurate than Reelgood’s. For instance, WatchAid thinks 3rd Rock from the Sun is available with a Netflix subscription (it’s not) and doesn’t realize it’s available with an Amazon Prime subscription (it is). WatchAid also doesn’t yet know that Netflix has just released season 3 of Glow. Plus, the WatchAid app frequently fails to connect to its server and requires clicking a Retry or Cancel button. Minor, but annoying.
But the real reason WatchAid is only a partial solution to the Netflix auto-play preview problem is that it works just with TV shows, and not with movies. Most of our viewing is TV, so that’s not a dealbreaker for us, but it may work less well for those who primarily watch movies.
So if you’ve become fed up with your streaming video apps pushing TV shows and movies you don’t want to watch, or you dislike being bombarded with autoplay previews, give WatchAid’s Apple TV app a try. It’s not perfect, but it’s a better experience than fighting with Netflix. And if WatchAid doesn’t float your boat and particularly if you already use Reelgood, perhaps its Apple TV app would be more to your liking.