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Recommended films based on time of day: the new thing Netflix is ​​working on

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Recommended films based on time of day: the new thing Netflix is ​​working on

No two Netflix homepages are the same. not all the Top Ten of films and series have the same posters for everyone and not all of us see the same trailer for the same film: “There are on average 6 different ones for our most important productions,” he explained a few weeks ago Eunice Kim al Los Angeles Times.

Kim hey chief product officer of Netflix since last October (after experiences at Google, Adobe and Pepsi) and we met her and Patrick Flemming, product manager of the Los Gatos company, in a meeting reserved for the international press in which we had the opportunity to understand a little better what what happens behind the scenes of this streaming giant.

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youtube: the trailer of The 3 Body Problem

The importance of personalization

The reason why Netflix homepages are different from person to personas well as film posters or even trailers, is linked to one of the pillars on which Netflix’s entire business is based, namely personalisation: “With us practically everything is recommended”, Kim told us with a smile, underlining how important it is for the company not only to understand but in some way also predict users’ desires. So that “as well as the internal search engine takes preferences into account.”

Preferences like the Viewing History (obviously) but also watching the trailer of a film or series, of a film in full or just halfadding something to the Favorites List, it scroll to a point on the page or in another, the time spent in one point of the page or another, whether or not the email is opened which signals the arrival of new content and so on. Dozens and dozens and dozens of parameters that Netflix algorithms take into account for a single purpose: “We want that people will subscribe again month after month, and they will only do so if they are satisfied and if every time they log on they find things to see – Flemming said – And so we want to become better and better at finding things that they want to see”.

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And to “get good”, those at Netflix are also trying new ways to anticipate the cravings of their more than 260 million subscribers in the world, as Flemming revealed at the end of our chat, responding to a colleague’s question: “We are working on advice that is time-sensitive, that is tied to the time of day the person logs on”, because a film or series that is fine for a Sunday morning may not be suitable for a Monday evening, a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday night when you return home after an outing with friends. When will these new councils be active? “AND something we want to do and are committed tobut it will take time to get it,” Flemming replied diplomatically.

According to him, there would instead be no risk that algorithms flatten culture, because “in the end we all look at the same things”, as many say: “What we try to do is broaden the range of things that we propose and that might be of interest, even by going intentionally and purposely outside the box.” The extensive work that Netflix does in many of the countries in which it is present also fits into this strategy: “We want to support stories that are of interest to the country in which they are produced but also give them the strength to get elsewhere”, precisely by recommending them to people who might appreciate them. It’s the lesson learned in 2021 with the Korean Squid Game and more recently (and on a smaller scale) with Italian Sea Outsideamong the most popular contents on the platform.

Eunice Kim, chief product officer di Netflix

The importance of advertising

Personalization is so important that one thing Netflix doesn’t allow you to do is reset your account, so that it forgets everything it knows about you and starting from scratch (on social media you can, even if it’s not easy). When we asked Flemming if it’s possible, he looked at us a little surprised, he has assuming that “if I did, we would be very sorry” and then he explained to us that it can’t be done but somehow it can be done: “Each user has the possibility of creating 5 individual profiles and if in some way they want to reset everything, they can delete one of the old ones, make a new one and start again from there”. Or? “Or you can manually delete individual content from your Watch History,” somehow retraining the algorithm, which is something that on Italian Tech we explained already in April 2022.

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Again: personalization is so important on Netflix that “practically everything is recommended” is including advertisingas Kim confirmed to us when we asked for explanations on this: “We choose the commercials to show based on the viewing history, the user’s geographical location and the few personal data that we collect, such as age and gender”. The idea is to “offer advertisements that are interesting to the viewer, i.e. not that of a brand of diapers to a single person without children”.

Vero: the concept of “advertising interesting to the viewer” is difficult to digest but it is one of those on which Netflix is ​​focusing most to make the arrival of commercials accepted in the streaming sector. Which has all the air of an invasion, if you look at it too the latest decisions of Disney Plus: isn’t there a risk of returning to the television of the nineties, full of advertising and with the aggravating circumstance of having to pay for it? “We are very sensitive to the problem but I don’t think there is a risk of returning to that TV, because they are very different experiences – Kim reminded us – Unlike the so-called linear televisionhere it is the user who chooses when to watch and what to watch, the commercials are not the same for everyone but they are personalized and are and will be increasingly integrated into the programming”.

There is not only this but there is also a sort of promise: “Our commitment is to maintain a light-ads experience (a light advertising pressure, ed.): no more than 4-5 minutes of commercials per hourcompared to even 20 minutes per hour of traditional TV”.

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The importance of balance

What is important, both according to Kim and Fleming, is however “balance needs of advertisers with those of users and with ours”. Finding the right balance, which during the conversation seemed to emerge as the third, fundamental ingredient of the recipe that allowed Netflix to be what it is.

It is a component that has also proven to be crucial in the reasoning on fight against abusive sharing of passwords: “We tried to find the right balance between the impact that this thing had and has on our balance sheet and customer satisfaction” and also the invitations to share that the company made at the beginning. Again: “We sought the point of balance between the prices offered to users and our economic satisfaction – explained Kim – Il plan with advertising, active so far in 12 marketsallows us to do this and stay at an even lower and more accessible entry threshold.”

Likewise, the additional accountswith which you can share passwords for a small fee compared to a full subscription, are available in a hundred markets (including Italy) and allow Netflix to balance the various needs, its own, ours and those of advertisers. To try, at least. Looking for the right balance.


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