Netflix Lays Out a Path to Personalization

By Tara Seals May 20, 2014

Let’s face it: ever since digital delivery and IPTV became a reality, consumers have found themselves faced with a dizzying array of options for linear, streamed or video on demand (VOD) channels, movies and TV shows. Navigating that glut of content however can be a fragmented, frustrating experience, so personalized TV has become a holy grail for content companies and TV providers alike. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while, but Netflix said this week that it plans to put the idea into action, to evolve beyond the endless grid.

Netflix’s chief product officer, Neil Hunt, said during a keynote at Internet Week in New York City that the streaming giant is working on a user interface that will present three or four top choices to users, based on their preferences, viewing history and psychographics. Hunt didn’t lay out a timeline for implementing changes to Netflix’ discovery functions, but it’s clear that the company has plans for changing up the approach to content presentation. 

“Our vision is, you won’t see a grid and you won’t see a sea of titles,” he said.

That in and of itself, seems like a simple goal—and hardly an innovative one, given the status of “personalization” as a buzzword in the content discovery biz. But he went further to say that Netflix and its kin will eventually leverage VOD to “build a different channel for everyone.”

That day could come sooner rather than later. Viacom announced earlier in the year that it was pioneering the idea with a programmable channel for kids called My Nick Jr. Parents can essentially create their own programming schedule, to be delivered via the linear TV interface. To start, they can choose preferred themes, with categories like "word play," "super-sonic science" and "get creative." That content will then be pulled from Nickelodeon's catalog of both current and library content, and linear and on-demand fare, featuring popular shows for the preschool set like Dora the Explorer or the Backyardigans.

Image via Shutterstock

Then, in a Pandora Radio-like scheme, kids and parents can give a smiley or a frown-y rating to shows as they’re presented—if one show is liked, then more content like that will be presented in the future. If a show gets a bad review, then it, and content like it, will be pushed down the priority list. Verizon's FiOS service has already signed on to carry the channel, which will run adjacent to the current Nick Jr.

These types of plays almost certainly need to be premium offers to allow proper monetization (My Nick Jr. will be a premium offering, delivered ad-free). A self-curated channel that draws from a variety of content of varying ages doesn’t make sense from an advertiser perspective, and consumers tend to prefer commercial-free fare anyway.  Hunt said that brands “will have to find a different place to advertise their wares,” unless a programmatic ad buying scheme can be perfected to deliver targeted advertising at the right time against millions of individual content feeds.

Speaking of older content, Hunt addressed one of the common criticisms of Netflix — that it relies too much on library content. This too feeds into the personalization theme: “There are no bad shows, but there are a great many shows with small, but devoted, audiences,” he said.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

TechZone360 Contributor

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