Netflix wants to know you better than you

And the best new movies this week on streaming

A report from Vulture last week went behind the scenes to reveal some of the details behind the top ten list and recommendation engine. Some points I think are particularly interesting:

  • Netflix has been exploring how to make their UI more objective. That's largely where the idea for the "Top 10" came from.

  • The Top 10 rankings you see when you log on to Netflix aren't based on average audience size for a given title. Instead, it's based on how many people watch at least 2 minutes of a given title.

  • Lots of the categories and content rows that seem objective are actually personalized.

  • The recommendation engine doesn't just try to figure out what you're likely to watch, it filters from that to promote what's most popular in general on the service that you're most likely to watch.

Netflix seems to have come around to the concept that keeping people locked into their service isn't about just figuring out what people like. It's about tapping into the cultural zeitgeist and linking what people like with what the culture at large is interested in at a particular point in time. It's a good insight. If we think about how we figure out what content to consume, it's usually word-of-mouth - the things we talk about in casual conversation. That's hard to recreate on platforms like Netflix that (thankfully) doesn't have built in social interaction so instead they use aggregate viewership data + the personalization algorithm to recreate that dynamic. Does it work? It mostly gets there...though I think they aggregate the numbers in a way that promotes Netflix's content more.

In any case, isn't it interesting how much technical and social engineering goes into these platforms to get us to keep watching?

Here are the best new movies available this week on streaming video

Army of the Dead (2021)

Available Friday, May 21 on Netflix

Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

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Other movies available this week

Netflix

  • Sleight (2016)

  • Sardar Ka Grandson (2021)

  • The Last Days (1998)

  • Sabotage (2014)

  • Small Town Crime (2018)

  • Hating Peter Tatchell (2020)

  • Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011)

Hulu

  • Supernova (2020)

  • Red Dawn (2012)

Disney+

  • Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (2015)

Amazon Prime Video

  • Red Dawn (2012)

  • Trumbo (2015)

Peacock

  • American Dreamz (2006)

  • The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

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Movie descriptions from IMDB.