Netflix’s algorithm programs endless watch

Data drives everything at Netflix

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The Future. Netflix’s underlying technology is a huge part of what has made the company so successful, with the platform able to pinpoint everything — viewership, taste, viewing habits — from every one of its users. And Netflix can’t hide that anymore, which is why the streamer has become the poster child of the writer’s and actor’s war for proper compensation in the streaming age. And with AI soon to become a part of the company’s operations in a much larger way, the data collected today may soon seem basic.

You’re always watching
Netflix’s head of content, Bela Bajaria, says, “Algorithms don’t decide what we make.” Maybe so… but they seem to decide what the company keeps making.

  • Netflix’s algorithm knows every movie and TV show you’ve engaged with, how long you watched, where you were when you watched, and on what devices. 
  • The company’s insights have also determined why users started watching a title based on how they navigated the platform, what they searched, and what they clicked on.
  • It even tries to juice viewership by changing home-screen recommendations, thumbnails, and previews for individual subscribers based on those insights.
  • That data has a major impact on what types of movies get greenlit and what kinds of shows get renewed for additional seasons — with a key data takeaway being that newer shows drive sign-ups more than returning ones.

All of that to say — when Netflix proclaims it can’t figure out a viewership-based metric for residuals (a big sticking point for striking writers and actors), that may be hard to justify. Data is leverage… and in an industry where leverage is the foundation of a good deal, it’s everything.

Those Top 10 lists just won’t cut it.


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