In their efforts to perfect the algorithm for consumer customization, Netflix has been moving in the direction of altering their personal recommendations list from a long one to a short one of three or four options. Netflix has kept track of their consumer’s preferences by collecting data from their personal profiles by finding trends in viewing patterns, what people watch and when they watch it. Netflix is taking one step closer to their ultimate goal of knowing their consumer better than the consumer knows themself.
Netflix recently announced that it would be increasing its monthly subscription by a dollar, immediately for new members and in 2 years for old members – all to compensate for adding more choices. While to the average consumer, a dollar increase is not terribly daunting, for a 1.8 billion dollar company with 40 million subscribers, a dollar more can finance another Netflix Original or continue to purchase more films for their viewers. With that much buying power, Netflix can offer even more personalized choices.
The delicate balance of individuality versus mass production is achieved through customizable preferences. Netflix’s decision to decrease the number of recommendations seems like a risky move considering that fewer options may lead to adverse affects. While some prefer to have as many options as possible for any kind of mood they might be in, others are comfortable with the variety of options provided conveniently for them. For those more indecisive individuals, having fewer choices helps to make quick decisions, allowing for more time to comfortably watch a movie and less time going back and forth between options. However, this could damage the viewer experience for those who feel the change limits their exposure to the variety of options that Netflix promotes. With the extensive data analysis, there is a good chance that the intentions of the limited options will improve the user experience for some, but there is no guarantee this change will satisfy the majority. Simply, this custom built page will be a hit or miss.
At some point, these choices start to bring about questions of choice versus recommendations – the classic chicken-egg dilemma. The lines of what the viewer chooses and what Netflix chooses blur together until Netflix can accurately predict what Jane would want to watch at 8 P.M. on a Friday night. Surely she’s feeling lonely if she’s at home having a comedy marathon on a night she’s normally not on Netflix. It reads as a personality test more than a simple avenue for rest and relaxation. Whether it does or does not affect viewership, it definitely will affect the kinds of films or shows being watched. Who knows whether some films will be promoted over others for reasons other than personal preference. Chances are they will succeed in getting their viewers to fall for their carefully laid out recommendations because Netflix is just that good at understanding the consumers needs to escape reality for a few hours. They customize their recommendations for the viewer based on their tendencies. More likely than not, the future projections of Netflix are becoming more for personalized recommendation lists than multiple options or privacy, for better or for worse.
Commentary by Sophia Bien