Netflix's bigger problem is that much of its content looks good on the surface, but on closer inspection is not worth the time. A lot of this stuff is produced by Netflix itself. Bill Nye's most recent show comes to mind, but there's a lot more.
Netflix shouldn't have deleted those reviews. It should be using them to clean the junk out of its lineup.
A perfect example of this is "Bright," a netflix movie that was critically panned. But people watched it. And now they're making "Bright 2". Are you really suggesting that Netflix should stop making movies that people want to see because critics (professional or otherwise) dislike them?
Two things people need to keep mind:
a). There's no objective way to judge this stuff.
b). The existence of movies like "Bright" does not prevent "high quality films" from being made.
Werner Herzog, Kelly Reichardt, Wong Kar Wai, Michael Haneke, Mia Hanson-Love, etc can keep making movies whether or not "Bright" keeps getting made over and over again. Both kinds of movies have their audience, and that's fine.
You conjured the objection to professional critics out of whole cloth to bolster the weak argument that the opinion of the masses who've watched the movie in question is not _precisely_ what they should be optimizing for.
Views that a user is dissatisfied with is obviously not good for the user. While just as directly profitable for Netflix, it's also something they should seek to minimize in favor of satisfied views (ie views that would lead to good reviews), as it can be a leading indicator for "I don't like much of what I watch on Netflix" --> "I'm going to watch less Netflix". The latter is obviously not something Netflix wants, both in terms of ability to acquire content and potential loss of subscriptions on the margins.
People watching Bright doesn't mean people, on the whole, liked Bright. Making a Bright 2 might just mean that making another was the easiest and cheapest way they had to honour Will Smith's contract, which may have primarily been inked to keep Will Smith out of putting together exclusive content for other streaming services he was in talks with.
The idea that the quality of the content itself is the end-all of the business decision to fund a series or movie is misguided.
Regardless, this misses the point. Consumers are right to push back against lowered content standards, and opaque business choices don't trump that. If Bright was actually good, it would have been fans that were clamouring for Bright 2. They weren't. The fact that good money is following bad doesn't mean the series is suddenly a success.
They have some good shows but their streaming movie selection and recommendation system doesn't hold a candle to what they used to have.
When they have you dialed in you've already watched everything worth watching so there is no good content left to recommend.
If they instead tried to get me watching just enough to keep the subscription it would be cheaper for them and I would have be more happy with the mean quality of available options
"Focus Area #1: Engagement
Engagement is, hands down, the #1 area that you should be concerned with on social media. It is the catalyst for improvement in all of the other social media KPIs we'll discuss." https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/social-media-kpis
This is just an example. Everybody wants to become Facebook for some reason.
Trying to have people watch just enough to keep subscribing is too hard a needle to thread, it’s easier to encourage as much streaming as possible so people feel like they’re getting something for their money. I’m sure bandwidth is a minor cost compared to licensing and producing content.
It shouldn’t be that hard though. Just keep a reasonably diverse catalog and give people tools to browse it.
Speaking of diverse, now a days I turn to YouTube when I want to watch something interesting. I wonder how much of that type of content they could add to their catalog.
Not specifically the random user generated content, way to much hassle, or “be amazed” crap, they have plenty of that already, but there are a lot high quality channels targeting some niche on the long tail.
We have a public service VOD-service here that hosts some content of that nature.
Yes. You are right. If they are just looking for more engagement removing the reviews will go against that policy.
It seems clear netflix is optimizing for something which is not just "the movie this user would like to watch next".
They are almost there but looks like either my watch-flow is somehow weird or they didn't pay attention to how people actually watch things.
To that end, training the model in their users, it would not surprise me to have that be an emergent recommendation.
My experience is that watch history affects the recommendation engine more than thumbs up or down.
For a Netflix-produced show, the first season is almost like an extended pilot who's only judge is the viewership instead of some network executives.
I suspect Netflix realizes this. I don't mind them not being suggested, but I'd be really upset if "junk" shows became unavailable. There's a bunch of popular content which I don't enjoy and I wouldn't be surprised if a sizable portion of content I do consume is "junk" according to popular opinion.
A matter of learning to appreciate a genre. For example I like certain types of reality tv which others think is 'stupid'. But first I didn't say all reality tv and also there are things I could point out to show why it is I appreciate it to anyone watching (one is learning from facial expressions at least in people that are not botoxed). By the same token I have no appreciation of sports. I wouldn't call it 'junk' simply because I realize others have learned to really like it. But it's no different than anything else. And the reason most people wouldn't criticize sports is because they see it's widely accepted mainstream. So they are not going to be the one to go out on a limb and call it out. Although they would something else (like shooting guns as a hobby).
>I suspect Netflix realizes this
Yes, because they collect all kinds of user data and have statistics to back up viewership and retention. E.g. the Adam Sandler films they produced come to mind. I don't think anyone would claim they're worthwhile films, but nonetheless Netflix has stated they got lots of views, which is important for their platform, especially to quantify investment returns.
My theory is that since Netflix is global, foreign audiences further skew the quality:views statistics, as many such countries' media is dominated by Western media, and "Western" may very well be enough to make it appealing simply because it contrasts with domestic media and arts. But I suppose the West does this as well by awarding an Oscar to the "Best Foreign Film" that might very well not be as acclaimed or otherwise not viewed as such in its own country.
Absolutely. Just like the television programming that Netflix is in the process of replacing!
The problem of junk shows diluting the good shoes would be a UI problem.
It seems like they're deliberately moving toward a shallower understanding of why people watch.
What’s not “worth the time” to one person doesn’t matter. Netflix has enough aggregate data to know what type of content keeps people on versus how much it costs to acquire the content.
The only content that would be “junk” to Netflix is content that doesn’t engage enough viewers to keep down churn.
Their DVD service ( https://dvd.netflix.com ) is far, far superior. All the user reviews are still up on there too, for now.
They probably decrease long time customer satisfaction and drive them to other platforms, but hey, who cares, you can't measure that.
THAT explains why Netflix keeps recommending me garbage quality content! I had a suspicion this was true, but couldn’t imagine anyone would make such a terrible design choice: 95% of content Netflix recommends me now is unwatchably bad in content quality (including Netflix originals too, of course).
IMO abolishing user ratings is quite probably the worst possible solution to losing user engagement due to low quality content.
I so rarely find a title I search for that I don't bother with that anymore.
That's not true at all. You can absolutely browse by genre, actor, etc.
Still, they could have left it in and just collect the data. Even if for providing a false sense/feeling of choice and ownership in the matter ;).
I'm not sure how much it matters how good each episode of a tv show is. Do you look up the rating of each subsequent episode before you watch it? If most people in your cohort were hooked enough for 5 episodes before tapering off, then certainly that's a tv show you may want to see.
Also, if everyone was interested enough to sit through something even though most people would say the payoff sucked, as opposed to bailing on the video early on, then I'm not convinced it's much different from a movie that people sat through and particularly liked when it comes to recommendation. So people enjoyed 75/90min instead the full 90/90min, not very damning.
At least make it rate limited tied to a paid Netflix account or something, not wipe it away for ever. What a shame.
That review truly was lemons-to-lemonade as all other aspects of that show I wish I could expunge from my memory.
Honestly, I think Netflix has become full of themselves. They pretend to have discovered some universal truths in how to create the best UI experience and suggestion system, and yet they have A/B tested tge interface over the years to this pile of garbage. It even hangs Edge frequently when I first open it there; the only browser that will play 1080p for me!
Give me a break Netflix; you're drunk on data.
This has been done to death in other content areas (I think there are more emulated-game library browsers than there are emulators!) so why not for streaming services? Is it that the streaming services don't expose the deep-linking ability?
I am not a Netflix user, so this is just a guess, not an analysis. But could it be because user reviews used to be featured more prominently, but they were de-emphasized into oblivion over multiple years and UI updates?
I know a news organization I visit frequently did this to their comment section. After their last UI design, they might as well have been put them the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.
70% of Netflix's viewing happens on TV. You couldn't even access user reviews on tv.
15% of Netflix's viewing happens on smart phones and tablets. You couldn't even access user reviews on mobile.
So 85% of Netflix's viewers (TV, phones, tablets) couldn't even access the reviews from their viewing-devices.
You could only access reviews on desktop/laptop... Which accounts for only 15% of Netflix's viewers.
In a lot of ways, the user reviews are mostly a vestige of when people used them while adding DVDs to their queue.
Talking about a popup is a non sequitur, it's not like the web site does that.
Their new system is clearly based on the data they have on you, and really feels like netflix picking for us rather than helping the user pick on their own. It does not provide much value to me at all.
I eventually left facebook.
That aside, it points to a couple of issues.
There is a lot of bad content on Netflix. It never had a good film catalog and their TV strategy has clearly evolved from at least a supposed "mine data to create great shows" (which always seemed a bit unlikely create all sorts of content, including niche content, throw it at the wall, see what sticks, and plump up the catalog in any case.
Second. No one has come close to solving recommendation. If Amazon, Apple, Netflix, etc. can't (and Facebook ads are a form of recommendation too), I think it's fair to conclude it's a really hard problem that no one knows how to solve well at scale. There are a few people whose taste in movies are very well aligned with mine. But that's not a general solution.
Are you sure? I feel like Netflix is making more data-driven decisions now than ever. If they aren't producing a constant crop of "HBO-quality" show, I would guess that that's because the data is telling them not to.
Consider: television networks have been in Malthusian competition for decades. You'd think the quality of the median TV show would increase. Instead, it seems like the quality of the best TV shows (on every network) consistently increases, but the median show stays the same. Why?
I would personally hypothesize that it's down to a not-oft-mentioned part of consumption psychology: people don't actually want to consume an indefinite stream of high-quality content that they need to give their full attention to at all times, any more than they want an indefinite stream of world-class meals or a radio station that consists only of their favourite music. Nobody has the time, or emotional capacity, to devote to consuming it. People want "bland" content just as much (if not more!) than "rich" content.
And, as licensing deals fall through and Netflix loses both bland and rich content from their catalogue, they have to replace both of those with their own offerings to keep viewers satisfied.
(Have you ever looked in the fridge, and seen that you have the ingredients to make several great meals—but those meals, you are planning to have at specific times with your significant other later in the week; and then realized that you have "nothing to eat" because there are no non-great meals you can make? Consider the television equivalent. That's the problem Netflix is trying to avoid here.)
I think this is a brilliant point that immediately resonates. I frequently watch or rewatch pretty formulaic shows, particularly if I’m doing something else at the same time. It’s comforting somehow. At the same time, I actively seek out and consume with undivided attention the best shows that the genre offers. And that’s enjoyable but it’s also...exhausting? That’s too strong a word, but I basically don’t want to do it all the time, just like I don’t want Michelin 3 star restaurants for every meal.
And I’m not alone: a LOT of people I know either split their TV time between the best stuff and the junk food stuff, or only really watch the junk food stuff. It’s interesting, for sure.
It’s simple economics. AMC, as an example, doesn’t have to have a ton of great shows to be carried on cable companies and to get them to pay to keep AMC on. They only need the “Walking Dead”. Enough people would be very upset if they couldn’t get that one show via cable.
But beyond that, while I'm sure Netflix uses data to allocate money for genres and other types of planning (and help determine whether to keep shows on the air--maybe it's a small audience but they watch every episode 3 times), shows are ultimately creative processes. Casts don't click. Leads become toxic. The audience just doesn't warm to it. No matter what the data said.
Sure, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm not claiming that Netflix is doing what would look like "intentionally trying and failing to make good content"—because that would produce qualitatively different content than the kind I'm referring to.
An attempt at rich food that tries and fails isn't bland food; it's bad rich food. A bad lasagna or a bad steak isn't going to suddenly taste like nothing. It'll just taste weird. Whereas a bland food is, say, a cucumber sandwich on white bread. Purposefully nothing-y. It won't ever taste exciting or weird.
Netflix is making "Netflix Original" bland TV, purposefully. Daytime soaps, "ghost investigations", prison documentaries, and other low-budget schlock. The data says people want it, just as much as the data says people want rich TV like Black Mirror or OitNB or whatever-else.
What if it isn't solvable? To me it doesn't look like there is enough room to maneuver, at least not in things like movies and TV shows, I think in music there might be. Say a recommendation needs to fulfill the intersection of 2+ things the user likes to feel like a recommendation, for example "you watched space and romance movies, here's a romance in space" otherwise it's just "you watched some space movies, here are some more". I don't think there are enough movies in existence, especially once you apply common criteria like "isn't in a foreign language, isn't on another streaming service, isn't very old or low budget" for these intersections to be filled with more than one or two items. In the space romance example above, the sole example I'm aware of is Passengers, there may be one or two others but it's not enough that you aren't going to deplete the pool even watching casually.
That only leaves extrapolating completely new things I might like based on more general patterns, but that falls victim to the same issue. If you know that I liked Passengers (already difficult without explicit feedback, watched does not mean liked), you have no idea whether I liked it because it had Jennifer Lawrence in it, or because of the tone, or the presentation, or the theme, or any other facet of it. And I only watch tens or hundreds of movies, not the thousands or ideally millions necessary to isolate the fact that I like movies with one very particular tone very slightly more than other movies.
In hindsight, that's obvious, but it struck me at the time. I don't ever want to see my thoughts get read by a computer (personal choice), but until such technology exists, recommendation engines will continue to suck.
Paul Lamere has done a number of talks on the topic at SXSW and the like. I know him from Sun Labs but I think he's at Spotify these days.
You'd think, with enough data, you could build causal models of purchases of product types.
Amazon certainly has associative models (people who buy this also buy that)—it seems like they would just need to add a temporal dimension to the input data.
This is false. I remember in 2007/2008 using Netflix a lot to get some really amazing and hard to find movies. The same was true of their streaming service in its infancy. Now they seem to have abandoned their movie selection altogether and are focusing on making their own stuff. I'm guessing it's because licensing became a huge headache for them.
> No one has come close to solving recommendation.
Try this app and we'll talk:
Recommendation is a solved problem from a computer science point of view. The problem with recommendation systems is that their outputs always get overridden by political and marketing concerns.
I agree. Why would I care about whether reviews are positive or negative about a movie before I started watching it? It’s not like I have spent money if 30 minutes in I realize it’s trash.
I feel the same way about movie reviews now that I have AMC subscription movie service. If a movie is bad, We’ve wasted nothing except for 2 hours of our life and a little gas money.
That's why I love content recommendation systems which actually work. Though the downside is, that today's systems (looking at you, Spotify) close you in kind of a bubble.
The best I've met was Google play music, the recommendations were great and at the same time you got to know a lot of great content unlike anything you've heard before! I switched, because unfortunately it seemed like nobody was working on it anymore.
I work 40-45 hours a week. Even when I am doing contract work, I limit the time I’m working. I don’t equate the 8 hours I spend working out to lost wages either.
This seems like it would make you a workaholic / crazy, but in fact at least for me, it makes me value the time more and make a bigger effort to spend it well.
It also makes it easy to decide if buying something that's meant to save me time is worth it, cause it's a simple "time saved" vs cost calculation.
Time spent sleeping is special, because I know how bad I function
and unhappy I am if I sleep too short for an extended period of time and it actually equates to days wasted.
I don’t like doing yard work and I will happily pay the going rate for someone else to do it. I don’t like going to the gym or working out outside - By the time it is all said and done, I’ll spend way more than the accumulated hours I’m saving by not driving to and from the local gym.
I've found some amazing gems digging through Netflix and relying on user ratings. They were films I probably never would have found otherwise. A few somewhat recent examples that come to mind are Enter the Void, The Discovery, Upstream Color, and A Dark Song.
It has to be something like this. Licensing fees based on views, or maybe the license terms stipulate that they're not allowed to promote it or something.
Often I'll be browsing around in some deep page in Netflix and randomly see some AAA major Oscar title that's not mentioned or promoted anywhere. It just makes no sense.
Maybe these are expensive views, so Netflix reserves surfacing them only for people who have taken actions that indicate they're having trouble finding anything they like?
To kind of "rescue" users who are on the verge of cancelling?
I've started to just let the lapse in membership run for longer; that way i can (hopefully) come back to some worthwhile stuff in 6 months.
I still think this was done on purpose to an extent. In the beginning the reviews were really easy to find when you were looking to see if you wanted to spend time watching something. As they "upgraded" their UI on the web they really buried it and made it more difficult to find. I had to use the netflix help a few times just to find it near the end. And with most people now using the app on a smart tv or roku, fire tv, ect, they never integrated the reviews into those apps. So to me its saying declining use is of course it was, the only way to get to it was having a laptop handy to check. At that point you can read reviews from any other site.
- Fandor: only US and CAN
- Mubi: also Germany
- Filmstruck: not Germany
- Yaddo: apparently worldwide
(skipped what didn't appeal to me)
Filmstruck for criterion collection and worldwide classical cinema. $80/y.
If you have amazon prime you get some blockbusters for free.
Some att plans include hbo go.
Netflix still has some good documentaries but their new releases have been low quality, except possibly for black mirror.
EDIT: I don't get it ... seems like a special service for people registered a library or university !? :/
I can’t recommend it enough. The collection is well curated. It has a lot of great educational content as well.
Combined with ripped dvds and/or pirate bay, can make for a refreshing video streaming service you own and host.
I wrote, in detail, several times here why Netflix and similar will never (in foreseeable future) crack the code with their business model in this industry. And no, you can't draw analogies with music and games. It's a vastly different business, even though it might seem it's not.
Using stuff like Radarr/Sonarr/Jackett/... makes for a higher quality experience.
- A lot less CPU intensive
- Offline watching
- Not limited to one system (especially for some quality versions)
- Audio only
- Easy bookmarking
- Every option a good video player can offer, from Audio/Video/Subtitles tweaking
And so many more.
I'm granting that we did (and on a large enough scale) for the sake of argument.
Is the idea that it's okay to steal so long as it's stealing from the rich and powerful (netflix, disney, record labels whatever)? If so, do you see how that argument might be something we can also appeal to?
(I would add "genuinely curious", but I feel it's become a device not for canceling for but for indicating sarcasm, so I won't do it)
There are other types of intellectual property that are much more likely to upset normal Americans. This includes trade secrets, trademarks, and possibly patents. Trade secrets are stolen by hacking, by forcing American companies to give them up in exchange for market access, and by employees who fail to abide by non-disclosure agreements. Trademarks are stolen by simply making clones, or sometimes by unauthorized operation of a legitimate factory in China. For example, I have a USB power adapter marked "SAMSUNG" that clearly isn't made by Samsung. This is very common, and these devices often catch fire or damage the electronics that are attached. Patents can sometimes be an issue, with Chinese companies able to evade enforcement.
When USA was new, we were a bastion of creativity. We didn't acknowledge the Old Country's laws on intellectual property, and we were the better for it. Things were crazy; you did stuff and you didn't let someone else that the thing in your head had ownership by someone else. There was a long period in which our goods were beneath European quality.
Not much time passes, and new and unique things were made here. The regime for patent/copyright protection got just as authoritarian and wicked in protecting 'stuff'. Hollywood was one such case - in which the devices to make movies was patented and the company that made them wanted their cut. The escape to California was to avoid those fees.
Again, China's been playing the same long game. "Rip off others' IP, allow extreme growth by being very liberal with copyright/patent, and eventually playing very protectionist once the economy is stable and advanced". This isn't anything unique with China, or the US, or anyone else.
> How do you guys reconcile your own torrenting,
Because once a country hits the protectionist point, they usually go way overboard and stifle all sorts of things. It pisses people off - is it really piracy if you buy a blu-ray and download it? Is it really piracy if you download a turd film and delete it? There's a lot of edge cases that are called piracy which in reality aren't. It's just called that cause Disney et al have lobbied to call it that.
Also, as I have gotten more money, I have been more willing to pay for media. When I was poorer, I was spending perhaps $10 for a ticket per every 6 months to a movie.
> usage of sci-hub etc
Sci-hup and "academic piracy" is a whole different ballgame. Predatory firms have put paywalls in place that alienate the creators of the papers, the reviewers of the papers, and the academics who use the papers, for $37 a paper. These predatory firms add nothing, and deserve to die. But again, this is completely different than movie/tv/music media.
> with the tendency to portray us as monsters
Humans have a bad tendency to 'otherize' people. See, you're Chinese, and not in my peer group, so my decisions have little effect on you. I can also have a poor opinion of you (having not even know you!) and people in my peer group don't care too much.
And it happens the other way around. Americans (USA) are horrible aggressors and evil empire and bad. Lots of places agree with that. But they don't know me, my friends, or my social groups. And in the end, other people 'otherize' the US, knowing what happens in DC isn't what we're like where we live.
It's best to think of this as "out of sight, out of mind, out of emotion". Because it is all too easy to consider someone else on a different point on this planet as "monsters". Eventually, we'll change that; although I think the internet like here is doing the ground work.
It's not a perfect system, but it's better then anything else out there.
That said I actually loath Netflix's UI. I'm sure they have some metric which shows it works but I hate hate hate the instant preview/playback. I want to browse quietly reading the descriptions and then possibly checking the internet but the distraction of Netflix starting the auto play makes that impossible for me so I end up just turning it off and googling for things to watch. This usually fails so I watch nothing.
My current pattern is wait for a friend to recommend something and then subscribe and a few days later cancel my subscription. In the month I have the service i rarely turn it on the browse because of the aforementioned issue. When I do convince myself to try to browse the issue comes up again and I just turn it off. I probably pay for 1 to 3 months a year. Kudos to Netflix for not forcing a yearly subscription otherwise I'd just find other sources
By far their most prominent platform for brand impressions is what the user sees when they first log in and view their home page. So what displays on that screen is of vital importance to their brand management team, and what kind of content they associate with that brand is everything.
Which is the reason why when I log into Netflix as a middle-aged software developer who watches war documentaries, true crime series, and old episodes of Frasier, I see a wall of hot focus-grouped twenty-somethings pulling their hair out and trying to fuck each other.
Because Netflix is young and cool and I just need to get with it, and if I can't get with it then that's my problem. Because Netflix is fierce. Netflix is the pulse of a new generation.
I wonder if movie reviews could be done via ActivityPub somehow.