New Netflix Ratings Suck

A couple of months ago, Netflix changed its user ratings system, simplifying it and attempting to increase participation. Instead of a five star system, you simply rate it up or down/ like or don’t like. In addition, the only rating result available is percent match, apparently an algorithm that compares past viewing habits with similar movies to predict likelihood of liking another movie.

I discovered this tonight as I went looking for a movie to watch. In theory, I have nothing against a binary vs. a five way rating system.  But my first experience with the new Netflix ratings are highly negative. It sucks and it’s useless.

  1. The ratio of up vs. down is not reported at all.  You get nothing that objectively shows how others felt about a particular movie.
  2. Many movies have nothing – no percent match – at all. In these cases, Netflix provides zero rating information.
  3. The percent match, when shown, appears to have little resemblance to whether I would like a movie.

To get a sense for percent match, I looked at a couple of genres – action/ adventure and romantic comedy.  In both cases, on a highly selective basis, I enjoy a few (guessing roughly no more than 10 percent) movies in each genre. What I found, when a percent match was reported, were scores in the 90th percentile for almost all movies in that genre, including the overwhelming majority I would not waste my time watching. Netflix provides no useful rating information in these cases.

In addition, I sampled movies – both liked and disliked – in a variety of genres. Two I very much enjoyed – African Queen (56%) and Paper Chase (60%) – got low percent match score. Two I don’t like – Magic Mike (95%) and Blue Bloods (96%) – got high scores. Two more I liked  – Mona Lisa Smile and Philomenia – had no information at all.

Overall, I’d say Netflix should simply report no rating information at all over what they are doing today. If they did, at least they’d be consistent.

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