Streaming giant Netflix is having a tough time. I think its once-innovative algorithm is to blame. Do you agree?
This is an opinion piece. All views expressed are not necessarily shared by Which?.
What’s the problem with Netflix? In April, it announced it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2022 and feared it could lose another two million by the summer.
There are lots of theories about why: too expensive, not enough good programmes to watch, too many rival services. Netflix’s own analysis points the finger at the one in four of its customers who share their passwords with friends and family in other households.
The sharing of a friend or family member’s account has been widespread enough for long enough that it’s spawned numerous memes and in-jokes across the internet. I confess that I too benefit from one such generous acquaintance – who will remain nameless.
It’s likely that Netflix will begin to clamp down on this practice soon in the hope that freeloaders such as me will pay to regain access.
‘I watch it because it’s there’
Will I? Unlikely. I cancelled my own paid subscription some time ago because it bored me. Netflix has become a grim, mindless habit. I watch it because it’s there; navigating to and around the app is now part of my muscle memory in the same manner as changing a bin liner.
The algorithm which once broadened my horizons by plucking an eclectic range of films, documentaries and drama from the ether, now predictably appeals to my basest interests, cranking out endless murder and scammer documentaries; most recently The Tinder Swindler, The John Wayne Gacy Tapes and the histrionically named Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King.
Its documentaries are artificially bloated into series characterised by poor editing, cheap twists and overblown narratives. I suspect the aim is increasing viewing time metrics rather than deft journalistic handling of complex stories.
‘You will like what you already like’
The technology underpinning the service operates on a crude assumption: ‘You will like what you already like.’
This is a sorry state for a streaming service that in 2013 genuinely pushed the boundaries by being the first to launch its own original programming.
Are you a Netflix subscriber? Or did you used to have it but give it up? Do you feel like it’s gone downhill? Let me know in the comments.
This was an opinion piece. All views expressed were not necessarily shared by Which?.