After Josh Centers looked at the video discovery services Reelgood and JustWatch (see "A Million Streams and Nothing to Watch? Reelgood and JustWatch to the Rescue!", June 21, 2019), I stumbled upon not one, but two partial solutions to the problem of Netflix attacking us with auto play preview (see “# DeathToAutoPlay – No More Audio and Video That Play Automatically !,” February 6, 2019).
Reelgood to the Rescue, Sort Of
It appears that Reelgood is publishing an Apple TV app as part of the iOS Reelgood app. While the app is simple – it does not allow you to search or browse as you can in the iOS app or the Web app – it provides a 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 short pause to select your account if you have multiple Netflix accounts).
That means you can use the Netflix app just to watch, and you don't have to submit to the Netflix user-friendly interface just to get to your show.
I say that 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 go back to Reelgood afterwards by pressing the menu button, the Reelgood app doesn't know you're done watching. So you have to mark each one as seen when you are done by clicking the Seen It button. When you do, Reelgood will move movies to your watch list, or present the next episode for TV shows.
Second, although we also see some shows in Amazon Prime Video, Reelgood cannot perform the same trick to open shows in the Amazon Prime Video app. That's disappointing since it means we can't just start all the looks from the Reelgood app.
Watch better with WatchAid
While I was checking the background of my Reelgood app, I ran across a review by WatchAid, another app that allows you to search for TV shows, add them to a queue and then start watching directly from the app. As with Reelgood, WatchAid provides an iOS app with an Apple TV add-on. Unlike Reelgood, you can use WatchAid's Apple TV on your own, or sync it with your iOS devices. If you place WatchAid on the top row of the Apple TV's main screen, it even displays thumbnail previews for your programs when you select the icon.
Originally WatchAid seemed like a complete win for us, as it can open shows in both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (plus other services), and when you exit the destination app by to press the menu button, WatchAid asks if you want to mark that episode as seen.
WatchAid also lets you fill your queue from the Apple TV app. It lacks a category or genre browser, and the search feature is fuzzy due to the usual Apple TV search interface, but when you find a show, you can follow it or watch 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 that have not been seen yet.
On the downside, WatchAid's database is less complete and less accurate than Reelgood's. For example, WatchAid thinks 3rd Rock from the Sun is available with a Netflix subscription (it is not) and does not realize it is available with an Amazon Prime subscription (it is). WatchAid also does not yet know that Netflix has just released season 3 of Glow . In addition, the WatchAid app often fails to connect to its server and requires clicking the Retry or Cancel button. Minor, but annoying.
But the real reason why WatchAid is only a partial solution to the Netflix auto-play preview problem is that it only works with TV shows, not movies. Most of our viewing is TV, so it's not a dealbreaker for us, but it may work less well for those who primarily watch movies.
So if you've grown tired of your streaming video apps squeezing TV shows and movies you don't want to watch, or you don't like being bombarded with auto-play previews, try the WatchAid's Apple TV app. It's not perfect, but it's a better experience than fighting Netflix. And if WatchAid doesn't float your boat, and especially if you're already using Reelgood, then maybe your Apple TV app will be more to your liking.