clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why doesn’t Netflix have the Criterion Channel’s best new feature?

Searchable transcripts may not be the future, but they’re really fun

Criterion Channel homepage - Columbia Noir Image: Criterion Channel
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Thanks to the homogeneity of user-experience design in tech, streaming services basically all the look the same. They all have categories that give way to an endless scroll of thumbnail tiles, and each one’s actual video player is nearly identical. In other words, new features are very hard to come by in the streaming space — but boutique streaming service Criterion Channel has a great one: searchable transcripts.

The feature includes a pop-out display that lists the movie you’re watching’s entire script with timestamps for each individual line. From there you can scroll through the whole thing and even click a line to get skipped straight to that moment in the film.

This is a pretty unique and niche feature, but it’s also the perfect kind of neat tool to provide on a service that specializes in classic and great movies. If you have a favorite scene, or a line you want to see Humphrey Bogart say again, you can jump straight to it. At the moment, this feature is available on some Criterion movies, but not all of them.

A screenshot of Inland Empire on the Criterion Channel where several people in rabbit costumes wander around a set of a living room. On the right side of the screen is a transcript of the movie.
Inland Empire on the Criterion Channel
Image: Criterion Channel via Polygon

But just because it’s the perfect little addition to a service like Criterion doesn’t mean that services like Netflix or Prime Video shouldn’t have it. After all, with how often people make memes of Netflix series — or how often the service’s own Twitter accounts tweet out subtitled stills — why shouldn’t fans be able to hop right to the moment of the series they’re looking for? After all, skipping around and getting to watch parts of your favorite movies again is one of biggest actual benefits streaming services offer.

More than the specific feature itself, Criterion’s addition is really just a great reminder that streaming companies aren’t doing enough to make their products unique or exciting. They aren’t pushing hard to make the viewing experience better, and they really should be.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon