Netflix Direct: How Netflix’s Linear Channel Works and Review

Netflix's linear channel still has a lot to prove but it demonstrates how a linear channel would work on Netflix

Frédéric Durand What's on Netflix Avatar

Netflix Direct Review

Picture: Netflix Direct & Adobe Stock

Netflix is working on a handful of new features that it hopes will help quell some of the upheavals they’ve seen with its stock price in recent months. One of them is a live channel called Netflix Direct, which has been in testing since November 2020. Here’s a review of how the feature works and performs nearly a year after its initial release.

France is the only territory in the world to have had the Netflix Direct feature since November 2020.

The feature will likely be very important as time passes, given a new focus by the entertainment industry on FAST Channels (free ad-supported streaming TV services) and linear channels becoming popular again thanks to the likes of Peacock, PlutoTV, and others.

As you may know, Netflix plans to implement ads in the coming year or so, so this service will likely be implemented in some form.

So what is Netflix Direct and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know:

First of all, you access Netflix Direct only via the web interface by clicking on a dedicated link in the top right-hand corner, next to the kids shortcut.

Netflix Direct Screenshot

Netflix homepage with Netflix Direct in top-right

That leads you to a page that shows what’s airing now and the schedule for the next 24 hours (to the minute) is accessible by scrolling the page.

Netflix Direct Schedule List

Schedule for Netflix Direct

The programming is all Netflix Original content and it tends to favor local programming and classic hits from the Netflix Originals catalog with a mix of films, series and stand-ups too.

Series are programmed in blocks of the first five episodes of a season, no matter the season. I’ve observed that it looks like the programming is generally skewed toward young adults/teens/women.

On the schedule, each title is presented with the time of broadcast, the title’s logo, the title of the episode, three categories that may help you decide if you want to watch that particular piece of content, the duration, and the year of release.

You can click on any title on the schedule that opens the series or films page if you don’t want to wait for them to air and watch them instantly instead.

When watching, the interface is pretty much the same as the one you’re used to. The only difference is that you can’t rewind and can’t change the speed of the video.

Netflix Direct Player Copy

Netflix Direct Video Player Interface

Watching a passage of an episode on Netflix Direct does not add the title to your queue so if you leave the page, you won’t be able to catch up later. Just like regular TV from years past so we’ve come full circle!

At present, it almost feels random as to how the schedule is prepared, with no rhythm or reason for particular titles being in certain slots.

For example, there’s no dedicated “film slot” around 8-9 pm. (The Gray Man is airing at 4am – hardly the prime time to watch an action movie).

With that in mind, it does not look like your typical American TV guide either. Maybe that will evolve later. It also doesn’t compare to PlutoTV which gives you multiple channels to choose from with different genres or titles on a loop. It’s simply one linear channel.

Pluto Tv Demo

PlutoTV interface

In conclusion, it’s a sleek feature page, that feels polished enough but that has had no evolution whatsoever since November 2020.

It also does not seem to be used that much in France because its access is very limited. It’s not accessible on TV for example, where it would probably more used.

Personally, I’ve never used it except when writing that article because, for me, the whole point of Netflix and why I have subscribed in the first place is to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch.

But as a starting point for a potential future foray of Netflix into live programming, it does the job very well, better than some FAST services available (such as PlutoTV for example).

Have you tried Netflix Direct? We’d love to hear what you thought – let us know in the comments below! 

Written by

Residing in Normandy in France, Frédéric is an avid Netflix follower hosting the French-language podcast Netflixers and running the Netflix & Chiffres substack. For What's on Netflix, Frédéric does deep dives into the weekly top 10s and pioneer the completed viewing equivalent that Netflix adopted themselves.