A couple of days ago Netflix very loudly and with much ballyhoo introduced a new feature. An initiative that no one asked for or cares about. An idea so meh that it if you were to rank it, you'd have to put it at the bottom of a "Top 10 Most Desired New Netflix Features" list.
Yes, I'm talking about the Netflix Top 10 chart which you'll now be able to find adding another layer of clutter to your Netflix home screen. Yay? Nae.
You may not notice it at first, which is always a good sign for a new feature. But scroll down past the 'Popular on Netflix' bar, roll on by 'Trending now' and boom! there it is in all of its non-essential glory.
Why the 'Popular' and 'Trending' scrollbars remain, and why they're both positioned higher on the menu than the brand spanking new one, is a mystery that would leave the great detective Sherlock Holmes furrowing his brow and quizzically asking, 'WTF?' before packing up his pipe and calling it a day.
It makes even less sense when you stop to consider that to earn a spot in the charts a show or movie should need to be both popular and trending. I mean, that just makes sense right?
Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe these days something extremely unpopular can still hit No.1 in the charts? Come gather 'round people, for the times they are a-changin'.
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Even more crazy is the fact that this could all just be me. Because we now live in an algorithmically driven future/hell the positioning or placement of the new Top 10 chart on the homescreen changes based on how relevant "The Algorithm' believes or thinks or algorithmisises how relevant the shows and movies on the chart are to you personally.
What this means is that if Netflix thinks you'll like the cut of the chart's jib it'll shove it in your face. But if it thinks you're likely to swipe left on its offerings then it'll hide it away in shame.
In my case The Algorithm has me correctly pegged as a fickle fellow of shallow depth who needs to know what's popular before being shown what's... er, popular?
Dear Gen Z, thank you for your patience - love baby boomers
Netflix's new feature lets you see what everyone's watching
Algorithms, eh? Can't live with 'em, don't really know what they are.
But being curious of mind I wanted to learn more. When it comes to things like viewing numbers of its shows Netflix is more guarded than the gates of Mordor.
They keep their cards close to their chest until they have what they say is a winning hand. Sporadically they'll boast that a Netflix Original show or movie was bigger than Texas while backing up the claim with, well, nothing really. Just a press release and a politician's smile.
The streaming giant does not allow independent verification of its claimed numbers which doesn't feel dubious at all.
This is the same cowboy methodology being used to compile their new Top 10 lists. You'd expect No.1 would be the most watched show on the service. But Netflix has not revealed how the results are calculated. So maybe not.
Right now No.1 on the charts is the new Netflix Original movie The Last Thing He Wanted. This came out last Friday. It's got big stars like Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe but it also has utterly terrible reviews. We're talking a 5 per cent rating on the review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes. That's 5 per cent out of 100 per cent. That score has to be the last thing they wanted...
Netflix compiles and publishes their chart daily so are an overwhelming amount of New Zealanders really streaming this almost two hour long, critically drubbed movie every night? Really?
It's also worth noting that eight of the Top 10 spots are filled by Netflix Originals. Yes, Netflix pumps out a lot of shows and movies these days but this number seems unusually high. Where's my tinfoil hat at?
Things get even more dubious when you learn that Netflix constantly tinkers with how they gauge views. It used to be if a viewer sat through 70 per cent of a show or movie that counted as one (1) view.
But in a not-at-all dodgy manoeuvre last December they just up and changed the rules. Now a view gets ticked up if a person sits through a mere two minutes of a show or movie.
Viewed in this light the high chart position of The Last Thing He Wanted begins to make a little more sense. The first two minutes of the movie are pretty good. I can highly recommend them.
But you don't have to take my word for it. After all, it's No.1! How bad could it be?