By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
New York – Streaming video provider Netflix took over a downtown Manhattan venue yesterday to showcase some of their original shows and projects coming to 93 million global subscribers in 109 countries. Netflix says it has created 1,000 hours of content for 2017.
This is a major move for Netflix, which started out as a DVD-by-mail rental service and evolved into a streaming content giant which offered unlimited access to old TV shows and movies to subscribers. Soon enough, Netflix began offering more recent shows and movies and, ultimately, making its own original content like the well-received (and oddly prophetic) House of Cards, the multi award-winning Orange is the new Black, and the acclaimed Stranger Things and The Crown which have been shows that have led the new wave of streaming services taking many major awards over TV and cable TV shows.
Because of the immediate nature of Netflix shows, where an entire multi-episode season is available at the same time (unlike TV or Cable where episodes are scheduled on a weekly basis), the company can be credited for binge-watching or marathon viewings of specific shows.
At the New York media preview, Netflix announced even more original shows coming in 2017 which, being built in-house, would be made available to all users in all countries. One of the big discrepancies with Netflix is that, because of licensing, Canadian subscribers don’t have access to all the shows that American subscribers have. By making their own shows, Netflix is free to show these in various countries.
In terms of content, Netflix is taking risks creating shows that buck old school norms. This includes shows that have strong female protagonists, shows with very diverse and inclusive characters, shows that reveal real people as they are and not the glamorized version that may be more palatable but unrealistic. Netflix is also tackling various social issues head on, they’re tackling bullying and teen age suicide (13 Reasons Why) and racism (Dear White People).
I also got to speak with Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin who told me about how Netflix is trying to use data and analytics as well as various methods to give users more of what they want. The idea of personalization, has long been a trait of Netflix, which allows different users to have profiles within an account.
While Netflix currently shapes the way you see the shows, making sure that the interface on TVs or tablets shows the most relevant shows above so you don’t have to spend time scrolling to find something to watch, the company is finding more ways to make the experience even more personal.
“Success at Netflix is measured by people watching more, thus are they getting more value from Netflix and are they retaining better or staying with the subscription service. Our rallying cry is ‘less browsing and more playing,’ we don’t want our subscribers to have to browse to find suitable content, we’re finding ways to get this content to them,” Yellin explains.
Netflix is hard at work applying technology to pre-qualify content that individual users will appreciate based on what they’ve watched but also by expanding discoverability to other genres as well as types of shows.
An updated version of Netflix’s interface, one which will offer short trailers of the shows (to accurately convey the theme and mood of the show), that will help viewers decide if it is the type of show they’d like to stick with.
Yellin explained that Netflix has teams of designers and engineers that labour over the best ways to present users with the best content suited to their tastes. “It’s a balance of finding similar content to what they are watching and also opening up opportunities to see other shows they might enjoy but haven’t heard about,” Yellin points out.
Its this application of technology and engineering that makes Netflix more flexible and smarter than competing TV and cable models since those mediums don’t do anything to personalize the experience or selection for viewers. By being a streaming and on-demand service, Netflix knows more about its user’s desires and, more importantly, it is learning to use this information to make customer’s lives easier by giving them more of what they want to watch in less time.
Pilot versions of Netflix’ new interface, which offers trailers so users get a feel for a show without having to invest 5-10 minutes watching it, is coming to Roku players as well as Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles but will likely make its way to other devices in the near future.