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Netflix’s $1 billion Recommendation Engine vs One Friend

Why friend’s recommendation is way better than Netflix’s recommendation engine?

Image of TV with Netflix on
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Disney+
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Apple TV+

as well as the free ones like Channel 4. Some would think with having this many subscriptions I should have no problem finding what to watch but it’s the opposite.

Like many, I use Netflix the most of the time. I think Netflix is awesome and their originals are fantastic however I constantly found myself not being able to find something to watch. I think they have the biggest catalogue compared to others however finding something that I would enjoy feels like is becoming a bigger problem as they add more content. I often find myself getting lost while going through the catalogue.

What do I do to find what to watch? I ask my friend who knows me very well. Guess what, I prefer his suggestions over browsing on Netflix.

I asked this very question to my friends and to their friends. In response, almost all of them also ask their friend / brother / sister to tell them what to watch. They also agree with me on getting lost in the catalogue and end up wasting a lot of time. Additionally, I found out a few uses Whatsapp groups to ask each other.

So why does Netflix spend billions (https://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-recommendation-engine-worth-1-billion-per-year-2016-6?r=US&IR=T) on improving their algorithms and recommendation engine if we prefer friend’s recommendation.

I think there are real flows in fully AI based recommendations and algorithms. This is a much worse experience on YouTube. Heaven forbid you watch a video such as highlights of a football game, otherwise get ready for recommendations of football videos for the rest of your life.

I don’t believe there can be one algorithm / recommendation method that would work successfully. I think our taste in watching something changes much more frequently compared to other types of content we consume, music for example.

I think if Netflix would know much more about me if they asked me these simple questions;

  • “Do you like to watch something you have seen before”
  • “How are you feeling right now”
  • “Are you looking for a laugh or romance”

On top of it, if they could somehow take my real life experience of asking friends into their app, I would have much better chances of finding something to watch that I would enjoy.

There is a great article from Shuchita worth reading on the topic of socials feature on Netflix https://medium.com/@shuchita/i-believe-netflix-needs-social-features-and-users-agree-7a4d3e63ebfe

Also having multiple subscriptions makes the experience worse. More content almost means more struggle. I’m sure there are great movies and shows on the other services.

On top of everything I wished from Netflix, I also wish if Netflix worked like Spotify where it showed all the content from all streaming providers so If there was a similar movie / show I just enjoyed watching available somewhere else, I could see it.