As streaming services expand and cord-cutting becomes a more viable option for many people, it’s more apparent that we’re giving something up in the process: spontaneity. Channel surfing was an institution in the days where cable TV was the ultimate in home entertainment, but lately it’s begun to fall by the wayside.
If you’re missing the feeling of skipping across channels, never sure what you’ll see next, a Chrome extension by the name of Ottoplay can help bring that feeling back. The extension plugs into Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, and lumps similar shows into programming blocks on entirely fictitious “channels.” To switch between services, simply use the buttons located on the virtual remote.
Simply open the extension, and you’ll find yourself watching a random show — in our case, the first show we encountered was Frasier — on one of the channels. You’ll see an overlay reminiscent of the guide overlay used by cable or satellite set-top boxes, and by using this you can navigate through channels, and of course also go backward and forward in time, since this is still streaming we’re talking about.
The channels aren’t analogs of particular networks: you won’t find all Fox programming on one channel, for example. Instead, the channels provide an easy way to group together comedy, sci-fi, drama, and other programming.
This isn’t a hyper-realistic recreation of the cable experience, which has positives and negatives. Closing the window that Ottoplay opens is akin to stopping time, since when you open the extension again, you’ll be right where you left off. On the other hand, upon watching a show for the first time, you’ll be dropped into a random episode rather than the first. This is how it worked on cable, but if you’re looking to start a new show, this may not be the way to do it.
Ottoplay isn’t going to revolutionize how you watch Netflix or Hulu, but if you’re not sure what to watch, it’s an easy way to jump into something. And if that sounds interesting, you can get started by installing the Chrome extension.