As You Pick a Netflix Flick, Netflix Watches You

[Entertainment ★★★]


(P1) Netflix wants you to watch more Netflix. To that end, the company has been testing how the cover art that accompanies a movie or TV show influences a viewer’s decision to ultimately watch it, the Daily Dot reports. Netflix figures it has about 90 seconds to capture your attention before you lose interest in watching a movie, writes the company’s Nick Nelson in a blog post and the best way of doing that is through images (which, a previous study found, is where watchers put 82% of their focus). “Imagine having to tell your friend about the last movie you watched through a single drawing on the back of a playing card,” writes Nelson.

(P2) Users spend only about 1.8 seconds assessing a title presented to them, and Netflix has gleaned some insights into what works. (Read a technical post on the undertaking here.) Highlights:

  • Close-ups of expressive faces that “convey a wealth of information … regarding the tone or feel of the content” outperform images depicting “stoic or benign expressions.”
  • The effectiveness of an image decreases when it contains more than three people. Writes Nelson: “While ensemble casts are fantastic for a huge billboard on the side of a highway, they are too complex at small sizes.”
  • Cover art that depicts villains performs “surprisingly well in both kids and action genres in particular.”
  • Due to what Netflix calls “regional nuances,” the performance of artwork varies by country; for example, the top Sense 8 image was different in the UK, US, Brazil, and Germany. From the Verge: “There’s definitely some sneaky demographic targeting going on” that is driven “at least partially by racial identity.”

WORDS: 273


VOCABULARY: accompanies, gleaned, insights, undertaking, convey, stoic, benign, ensemble, depicts, villains, nuances, demographic


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you subscribe to Netflix or another online streaming service (e.g. HULU or Amazon Video)? Why or why not?
  3. Does the cover art of a movie influence whether you watch it or not? Why?
  4. Why do people like to stream movies and music online?
  5. Which genres of movies do you like? Why?

EXPRESSIONS or PHRASES: What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • Cover art (P1)
  • To that end (P1)
  • Close-ups (P2)

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Image source: by AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

One thought on “As You Pick a Netflix Flick, Netflix Watches You

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