Netflix peers into my soul

Posted: May 2, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Netflix made big news again. You know it’s big because the suffix -ageddon has been attached to it, which is to overhyped non-apocalyptic events what -gate is to overblown political scandals.

It’s called Streamageddon — Streamgate, if you will — because about 1,800 movies are no longer going to be available on the website’s streaming service. It could cause some more PR headaches for Netflix, which endured a near-catastrophe two years ago after announcing a price raise and a bizarre plan to separate the company’s DVD service from the streaming. Netflix backtracked on the separate company plan but the price fiasco — Priceageddon? — severely hurt the company for a time. I never understood the outrage back then. We pay 25 bucks for unlimited streaming and three DVDs at a time. To me that’s an amazing deal, which is affirmed each time we spend 28 bucks for two movie tickets and then raid my 401k to buy popcorn, chicken fingers and — for now anyway — gigantic sodas.

This latest news shouldn’t hurt Netflix like the price hikes but it is a blow for consumers, especially those that do rely solely on the streaming services. No matter what, though, it’s certain Netflix’s crack computer code — or maybe there’s a team of psychologists on staff who analyze user habits — will keep suggesting extremely specific movie genres for its customers. It can actually be a bit unnerving.

Actual category: Tearjerks featuring a strong female lead.

There could be tearjerkers featuring weak female leads but that hasn’t popped up on my screen. Some of those movies? Helen. Nell. Take This Waltz. Young Adult.

Netflix wants me to know that because I watched the old Aaron Sorkin series Sports Night — and because they know I watched Sports Night because they meticulously document every move I make, every title I browse and then judge what kind of person I am — that I might enjoy Out of Practice, Undeclared, Parks & Rec and Coach (or maybe they know I’m from Minnesota and that’s why I might enjoy watching Dobber).

Sidenote: Sports Night has become a cult favorite and many of my friends love it. So, as Netflix can tell you, I watched several episodes last weekend. And after sitting through those shows I remained as unimpressed by it as I was back when it originally aired in the 1990s. I found absolutely nothing appealing about it — the acting, writing, stories, anything. And it’s filled with great actors I love in other roles. And, hey, I like sports. And nights! But Sports Night? No.

Of course I didn’t rate Sports Night, which I’m guessing Netflix would then use in its suggestions. If I give it a low rating, does it offer something that’s the complete opposite or other 1-star shows I might find similarly annoying?

I’m just one person on our Netflix account. My wife watches it all day, or at least listens to it. She has it on in the background on her iPad as she works on her laptop. Considering she works 12-16 hours a day, Netflix is collecting mountains of information on our viewing habits. Because “we” — she — watched something called LOL, we might like Keith, Go For It and The Pill.


So many classifications offered by Netflix: Absurd, campy, cerebral, chilling, controversial, cynical, dark, deadpan, emotional, exciting, family-friendly, feel-good, goofy, mind-bending, ominous, quirky, understated. A lab filled with underpaid workers toils day and night watching movie after movie and fitting them into one of those categories. Shutter Island? Ominous. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Quirky. Want some new Mexican cinema? Netflix has you covered, as it does if you’re looking for Teen Screams.

I actually love all this data collection, as long as I’m not thinking about the loss of privacy or Big Brother overtones. A freak for the past and nostalgia, I enjoy going back through my regular Netflix DVD history and seeing what I watched and when I watched it.Was it really a year ago I had the original The Day of the Jackal delivered? It goes all the way back to the beginning of our account, in September 2004. The first DVDs we had delivered? The documentary One Day in September, Spartan (an odd Val Kilmer movie) and Master and Commander.

I had Magnolia for three months and never did watch it. Last year I had The War Room, a documentary, for four months but that’s because I lost all of the red return envelopes and was too lazy to send it back in a regular one. In 2010 when I finally watched The Sopranos, I interrupted the barrage of discs by renting something called NYC: Tornado Terror. I apparently needed a break from Tony’s troubles.

I can’t say I can remember watching that tornado flick. I’m guessing it involved an armageddon type scenario on the Big Apple. New York survived, as did my queue. And Netflix will survive Streamageddon.


Netflix knows me so well.


  1. Wait … Chicken fingers at a theater? NYC really is the greatest city in the world.

  2. Also, I think this trend – more factioned viewing services – sucks. I joined Netflix because I wanted to be able to see virtually any movie or show at anytime. Soon, there will be one service per studio or channel – no more catch-all clubs, essentially ending the Netflix idea entirely. That would push me more toward favoring the old rental model ala RedBox (until that gets killed, too?).
    Or am I overreacting?

  3. shawnfury says:

    Yes, chicken fingers. Which I love. The pizza, meh. Mozarella sticks — not a fan.

    I think you’re right about how it’s going and it makes sense, I suppose. The studios probably figure why not get all the money from the streaming instead of a percentage. But I hope it doesn’t happen. I love my Netflix. If it does and their streaming is decimated, you might have to dig down and fork over for the DVD plan.

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