I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I read the news Netflix was getting in on the after-show trend and launching a new show discussing its breakout success “Stranger Things.” Netflix – and streaming in general – is so focused on binge-watching that I wondered how this sort of “timely” material might work, particularly if you’re devoting an entire weekend or whatever to plowing through the whole thing. What sort of value, I wondered, would that time-sensitive material
Then I put it into a different context and it all made sense. It’s about recommended viewing.
Specifically, I remembered this story from earlier this year about how Netflix was using “The Defenders” to test how people respond to and act on the various recommendations that are shown when you’re selecting something to watch or when what you’ve watched has finished. The company has all sorts of data on what you watched previously and what you’ve watched next, what paths you’ve taken to the various movies and shows it offers. It’s constantly making adjustments based on that data.
It also has its own corporate interests to look after. That’s why when you scan the “Recently Released” and “Recommendations For You” sections you’re increasingly likely to find a handful of Netflix originals offered for you to choose from.
While Netflix, according to the news, will encourage viewers to wait on the after-show until they watch the whole season, I think there’s the potential for a new model that increases stickiness while catering to individual tastes. Consider this:
Finish watching Episode 1 of the show’s second season and you might be offered two options for what to watch next: You can either continue to Episode 2 or check out Episode 1’s after-show.
If you choose Episode 2 and then keep going into Episode 3, the system may figure out that you like to binge so it will just keep feeding you the next episode as a recommendation, with the after-show popping up after you’ve finished the whole thing.
If you choose the Episode 1 after-show then once it’s done you might be asked if you want to watch Episode 2 next or the Episode 2 after-show, depending on your viewing history.
Basically, it will keep feeding you recommendations that keep you within the ecosystem of Netflix original content, allowing you to design the experience that best matches your viewing preferences.
I understand why Netflix is warning viewers away from the after-show at first. It doesn’t want people to be spoiled for future episodes and so on. That’s not how the rest of the ever-expanding number of after-shows work, though, and it certainly doesn’t take advantage of the unique place Netflix occupies. If it was really that concerned about preserving the viewer experience, it could have waited and released the conversational format after a decent amount of time had passed.
Netflix should know better than anyone there’s data in them thar hills that can be mined to gain even more insights into how people watch shows and movies and what prompts them to do so. Reformatting the after-show to make sure it doesn’t tip any hands for future plot points is what happens on other similar shows and would make them ready for viewing immediately as part of a whole package.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.