Some Netflix subscribers have noticed a problem with the suggested ratings the company includes on movie and TV shows, which may have started earlier this week.
Netflix calculates a “best guess” for what its users might rate a particular title by using past ratings and viewing activity. It’s sort of a qualifying factor some people use when assessing whether or not they’d like to watch something or add it to their “queue” to view later. However a handful of subscribers noticed as early as last week that many titles in their queue had “inflated” suggested ratings of either four or five stars (out of five). Also odd is that this only applies to streaming movie/TV show listings, but not DVD listings.
“I have had Netflix for years and years, and have spent waaay too much time browsing film titles and looking for something new to jump out at me during that time. So, you get a sense of where things are rated,” said Reddit user eltonjohnshusband in a recent comment thread. “Starting yesterday, shows that had previously been showing in the mid 3’s (like Hell On Wheels for example) all jumped to over 4.5.”
Plenty of users are suggesting that Netflix may have wanted to artificially inflate those suggested ratings to get more people to watch. I doubt that’s the case, as Netflix really doesn’t need to waste time and resources promoting the non-original, licensed content in its library. It’s more likely that Netflix would simply remove those titles if no one was interested.
For now, the suggested ratings don’t appear to have affected anything else on the site, and the average rating among all Netflix subscribers is still listed and unchanged for both DVD and streaming titles. But it has irritated enough Netflix users to cause a stir — with good reason.
While I’ve never been adamant on rating every title I’ve watched that pops up on Netflix, I do know plenty of others that do. Those ratings are how many movie and TV buffs keep track of personal tastes since the incentive for doing so is (presumably) getting better content suggestions. If Netflix suddenly stopped basing its “best guess” ratings on a user’s activity, it would mean all the time spent applying those ratings was more or less wasted.
VentureBeat has reached out to Netflix for more information, and will update this post with anything new we learn.
h/t to Mike Sonders