What I want from Netflix

Netflix If Netflix is going to be the future of television, they need to try harder.

This was originally posted on Medium on the 27th of February 2014. I’ve posted it here, on my primary blog, a week later for posterity.

Josh Lee wrote a post elsewhere on Medium titled What I want from Netflix. He asked for offline viewing, the ability to hide certain genres, movie playlists to subscribe to (and presumably the ability to create these playlists), a ‘binge mode’ that would skip opening titles, the return of The Cosby Show and he doesn’t much care for SNL.

I’m not going to respond to any of those suggestions in particular, but I want to see much, much more from Netflix.

I want greater transparency about what’s in their library and when shows are due to expire. This unofficial guide to the Netflix UK catalogue is exactly the kind of information that Netflix themselves should surface.

The ability to create smart lists, like ‘Films in your list being removed soon’ and ‘New stuff ordered by Rotten Tomatoes rating’.

I really like the barmy genres Netflix creates and I’d like to be able to pin my favourite micro-genres. If something interesting pops up in ‘Critically-acclaimed Mind-bending Foreign Films’ then I want to see it!

But I also need some way to tell Netflix what I like and don’t like about certain films. The algorithm seems to gets really confused that I like violent films and also children’s films. What it’s failing to grasp is that some kids fare like Wall-E, Up and Rango are amongst the best films ever made in any genre, but that doesn’t mean I’m ever going to want to watch The Smurfs.

Within genres there are films I love and films I can’t stand. For example, Demolition Man is fantastic, but The Expendables is excruciating. If Netflix already uses some kind of taste profiling to determine that ‘people who like this film also like these films’, then I’ve not felt the evidence of that. They need to get smarter about judging what my opinion of good quality is.

They also need far better social media integration so I can see what my friends are watching. What does ‘popular on Facebook’ mean anyway? How about showing me what my friends on Twitter are talking about.

More focus on the quality of the movies they source too. Not subjective quality, but image quality and making sure they use the correct aspect ratio. In fairness the quality is usually very good, but they have some real SD trash on offer too. I’d rather they had a smaller catalogue than one padded with content I can’t stand to watch.

I’m not sold on this whole Netflix model of putting all the episodes of a new series up at once either. They should pace the release of new series like House of Cards to build up buzz and anticipation. Dumping an entire season at once eliminates any type of water cooler discussion people can have about the show because no one watches at the same pace. At worst it encourages marathon-style binge viewing which can make any show start to feel like a chore to watch. Not that people shouldn’t be allowed to binge if they want to: One episode per day would be fine, released at a prime time hour.

Oh, and ditch Silverlight.