Netflix:
a good Discovery UX is strategic

A few days ago I had the opportunity to read the first article of a series that my friend Iván Vidal announced to us on LinkedIn. Iván, with the authority that his knowledge and visibility of the sector give him, gave us a great analysis of Netflix’s strategy and the market segmentation they did.

This analysis left me wondering about a couple of points and moved me to investigate and dig deeper.
Specifically, the statement that Netflix pursues the strategy of putting UX ahead of content seemed very striking to me, especially when Netflix has put great focus on differentiating itself in this chapter and was a pioneer in producing its own content.

Beginning with the production of House of Cards and continuing with the Oscar-winning Rome and its disruption of the window exploitation model, which led to the exclusion of the film from the Cannes festival 2 years ago.

However, despite the 11,000 million dollars invested in original programs, 80% of the stream content corresponds to licensed content, not proprietary.
And more than 40% of the user base has never seen Netflix original content…

And how did Netflix score on usability? As a subscriber of the service, I was aware of the imperfection of its user interface, very visual but not very effective when recommending. Finding relevant content and searching successfully did not seem to me its greatest virtues. Was this a personal opinion or was it extrapolated?
Investigating, I saw that I was not the only one with that perception, since 77% of the VoD service users declared they had difficulty choosing a movie.

More revealing was the following data: of the 2 hours a day on average (3.2 hours during Covid confinement) that a user in the US spends consuming Netflix, 18 minutes are spent looking for which movie or series to watch, an incredible 10% . The time consumed (or wasted) searching Netflix is twice that required by cable TV users and in any case an alarm signal that something is wrong.

And this when Netflix wants to position itself, in the passive part of the experience “I turn on the TV to see what they are playing”. This was the second point in Iván’s article that left me wondering. How close Netflix was to that self-declared strategic goal.

It seems clear that to achieve this aspiration they have to improve their search engine a lot, minimizing the need for interaction. Netflix needs to make the search experience much more fluid, fast and intuitive, especially in a context of poor usability such as TV, a screen that 70% of its users use to consume movies or series. More taking into account that 46% of the population, and therefore of its wide audience, is search intensive, that is, it mainly uses the search box to reach content.

Because the other way, apart from search, to offer a fluid experience that is more similar to the passive TV broadcasting versus the more active one of a VoD, is to show relevant and personalized recommendations.

The reality is that Netflix users, for the most part, report that the recommendations on the platform are frustrating: they find them repetitive, commercially biased and irrelevant in most cases. It is not surprising that they recommend content that you have already seen or that has been recommended on different occasions without arousing your interest.

It is perhaps this area, that of Discovery, to which Netflix should pay more attention, since it would contribute on the one hand to the strategic objective of improving the UX, bypassing the imperfect Search experience, and promoting a more passive consumption as they seek, and perhaps achieving greater consumption with longer sessions.