5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating System

March 23, 2017 by Jim Davidson

5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating SystemI have never been a fan of the Netflix rating system. I’ve found it to be one of the most frustrating elements of my daily Netflix experience. The plan to completely change the rating system for the platform is thrilling, overdue and very much welcomed by this movie fan and consumer content geek.

While much of the news about the change has focused on the switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down rating, the details are much more interesting.

The star rating system at Netflix has always been confusing and misleading. For example, I may see the BBC docu-series “Planet Earth” in my Netflix menu with a 5-star rating. My sister, who is not a fan of such shows, could see the same title with a 1-star rating.

I may give a movie a 4-star rating but I’m never really told what benefit that has to me. Will the rating shape future recommendations? The answer is yes. Will it impact the movie’s rating? Kinda, but not really (Keep reading!).

Netflix was showing you a star rating of how much they thought you would enjoy a show rather than the more common aggregating and averaging of ratings by fellow viewers. This could often lead to the assumption that I wouldn’t like something based on previous viewing habits when a show, in fact, could be highly-rated by the majority of viewers. The VP of product at Netflix summed this up by saying, “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

This tail-chasing dynamic of what marketers think is best vs, what consumers want stunts so many commerce marketing strategies. Is it segmentation and personalization or is it social proof?

To add another layer to the Netflix ratings wreck, there are longer format written reviews on the Netflix website that are not available in most apps and connected TV platforms. That star rating may not match as you move between site, app or device.

Specific to UGC, marketers should focus on providing a platform for customers and shoppers to have a dialog about products, service and brand interactions that can help them to discover new products, answer questions and buy with confidence. The experience should be consistent across devices and channels.

Marketers can help to shape these interactions, but making assumptions, forcing the conversation and/or trying to control the dynamics of consumer interaction can lead to failure and distrust by shoppers and customers.

So, yes, Netflix’s switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down system is significant, but I look forward to how this move to a binary choice will impact the larger algorithms and how Netflix will feature ratings across their platform.

Hopefully the experience will be more consistent and representative of the ratings given by fellow Netflix viewers while still being peppered with the ever-evolving algorithms that power the Netflix experience.