Netflix is dropping star ratings for a simple thumbs up or down

Siskel and Ebert would be proud. Netflix is adopting a simple like/dislike format for user ratings and dumping the stars.

Netflix is giving up on five-star ratings for movies and TV shows to go with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down rating.

The new ratings feature is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, the company recently told a group of journalists, as reported by Variety. Any Netflix star ratings you’ve already given will still be used behind the scenes to inform your personalized recommendations. Up front, however, it’ll be all thumbs.

Netflix figures it can get a better response from users via a simple thumbs up or thumbs down choice. In its small scale tests during 2016, subscriber ratings engagements were 200 percent higher for thumbs over stars.

On top of that, Netflix believes it can better discern a user’s future viewing choices with a simple A/B choice compared to a five-star rating. Netflix VP Todd Yellin told journalists that users would often give high ratings to a documentary and a mid-rating to “silly movies”, according to Variety. Even so, people would watch the “silly movies” more often than the well-rated documentaries.

That makes a certain sense. Subscribers may feel that a documentary like Cowspiracy or The White Helmets deserves five stars, while Everything Must Go or Adventureland shouldn’t be given the same consideration. But when Thursday night rolls around, how many people are interested in a hard hitting documentary over a “silly movie” to unwind?

The impact on you at home: Dropping star ratings may help Netflix to deliver better recommendations, but will it help subscribers make better viewing decisions? That’s not clear. A five-star rating makes it easy to see at a glance whether a certain series or new movie is worth a shot. Presumably, the new thumbs up and thumbs down data will just replace the stars and users can judge whether to watch something based on that.

However, Netflix is also using a “percent-match feature” based on thumb ratings where Netflix suggests that a title is “X” percent likely to satisfy your viewing tastes. If that’s the only kind of data users see from thumb ratings it won’t be as helpful as a raw percentage of a certain title’s popularity with other Netflix viewers.

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Ian Paul

TechHive (US)
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