Published On: Wed, Sep 20th, 2017

Navigating Netflix: Finding the Best of Everything Quickly

The current entertainment landscape is an embarrassment of riches. Just a few short years ago, the choice of what to watch on TV was dictated by the whims of the television network or the size of your DVD collection but the rise of streaming services has rendered our choice of nightly entertainment so vast it’s practically a first world problem in and of itself. The rise of Netflix has not only revolutionized the way that consumers engage with their media but also helped to facilitate the creation of original content that can tell a story without being too compromised by the committee thinking that plagues major networks and studios. This has led to a rise in bold and original new televisual content with more edge than is usually afforded network television and big budget Hollywood movies. While a triumph for originality and intelligence in programming it further muddies the waters when it comes to finding something good to watch on a quiet night in.

Navigating Netflix: Finding the Best of Everything Quickly

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A blessing and a curse

Indeed, the quandary of browsing through the  hundreds upon hundreds of movies and TV shows has led many to spend several minutes or even hours building an exhaustive ‘maybe’ list without making a single affirmative decision. Believe it or not, the navigation of Netflix is even causing relationship troubles amongst some couples and roommates. Aside from the inevitable arguments about what to watch or frustration at the lengthy browsing, many people are now secretively ‘cheat watching’ ahead of their partners leading to a range of arguments; some tongue in cheek, some deadly serious.

The problem, then, is how to access the right content for you quickly while minimising the browsing time that can lead to interpersonal friction. Mastering a leviathan such as Netflix may seem tricky but in most cases it’s simply a matter of knowing how the streaming service’s algorithms work.

Recommended For You…

Just like most e-commerce outlets, Netflix uses a rudimentary form of artificial intelligence to make recommendations based on your personal useage. While the films and TV shows you watch are taken into account, of greater importance is the way in which you rate the content you watch. Previous iterations called for a star ranking but this process has now been simplified to a thumbs up/ thumbs down approach that enables the service to gauge your preferences. Hence, it’s important to rate the content you watch in order to receive better recommendations.

While previous versions of Netflix used an aggregate star score based on the ratings of all users, the current model uses a system that is more personalized. Instead of a star rating, recommendations will have a percentage for each movie or show based on how you have rated other similar content. Thus, the higher the percentage score, the greater your chances of enjoyment. The waters are muddied, however, when more than one person uses the same profile so it’s recommended that each member of the family has their own profile or dedicates a separate profile to shared viewing (some users also assign profiles to different occasions like family movie night, date night etc.). Children can also select special profiles that enable them to access only age appropriate content.

Browsing by genre

Many of us have broad tastes but prefer one genre over another. While Netflix offers the ability to search by genre fairly quickly, it can still be difficult to find good content quickly. Horror fans in particular can spend a long time wading through poorly made schlock horror to get to the genuinely well made diamonds in the rough. There are a few good websites that are regularly updated to help you find the best in each genre. For example, you can Check out the top westerns here, but these recommendations are subject to region. Again, rating the content you watch (or browsing and rating things you’ve seen elsewhere but know you like) can be a helpful way of paring down your recommendations.

Those crazy categories

Veteran Netflix users will be aware of the plethora of different categories that the service uses beyond the strict confines of genre. Some of them are simple enough to understand ‘violent films’, ‘films featuring a female lead’, some are downright bizarre (and oddly specific) including:

  • Raunchy TV programs featuring a strong female lead.
  • Emotional Independent Dramas for hopeless romantics
  • Oscar-winning visually striking movies from the 1970s
  • Goofy dance musicals and
  • Coming of age animal tales.

And that’s just the ones that you’re supposed to see. You can check out the full gamut by doing this.

While Netflix does offer a daunting array of content, boxing clever with the algorithms will help you find the right content and eliminate wasted hours of browsing.