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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

January 3, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Things you didn’t know about Netflix

I’m not a Netflix user at the moment (thanks to my job, DVDs keep arriving at my desk from all directions, keeping me with plenty to watch), but I was fascinated by this week’s story at The Atlantic, in which a tech writer became fascinated by Netflix’s many subgenres (Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s, Time Travel Movies Starring William Hartnell, Visually-striking Goofy Action & Adventure, etc.) and decided to try to figure out how many there were. Here’s what he found:

  • Netflix has, based on writer Alexis C. Madrigal’s research, has 76,897 microgenres (or, as Netflix calls them, altgenres).
  • To identify these genres, the company assembled “large teams of people specially trained to watch movies” (hey, why didn’t they call me?) and supplied them with a 36-page training document that taught them how to rate movies based on “sexually suggestive content, goriness, romance levels, and even narrative elements like plot conclusiveness.”
  • The company, combining these elaborate genres with statistics on which movies are being most watched, therefore has a fascinating compilation of data on exactly what kind of content most people want to see. It’s safe to assume that their original content, such as “House of Cards,” makes thorough use of this data.
  • If you look at which specific topics turn up in numerous microgenres, the overwhelming winner is “about marriage,” followed by “about royalty,” “about parenthood,” and “about reunited lovers.” Meaning, if Netflix could come up with an original movie in which a royal prince and princess, separated after a brief but passionate love affair that resulted in a child, got married, that might be rather popular.
  • Netflix’s favorite adjectives (based on how often they pop up in microgenre names): Romantic, Classic, Dark.
  • Netflix’s favorite actor: Raymond Burr. There’s no real answer for this, except that presumably Netflix viewers really, really like Perry Mason. Go figure.

Oh, go ahead and read the whole thing; it’s a slow day.

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