The Power of a Picture at Netflix

January 14, 2018 12:38 pm Published by 1 Comment


For a long while now, the goal for Netflix personalisation recommendation system has been to get the right titles, for its users, at the right time. But how do they convince it’s users that a particular title is worth watching?

For this post, I am going to look at the different pieces of artwork that has been used for a number of titles. Netflix has spoken about it’s use of personalisation in it’s imagery and that “If the artwork representing a title captures something compelling to you, then it acts as a gateway into that title and gives you some visual “evidence” for why the title might be good for you”. Netflix discusses that if an image is worth a thousand words and maybe that if they create a perfect homepage for its users then you may just give one of the titles a try. 
It is important that the imagery used for the titles has something compelling for the audience in order to capture their attention. 

Netflix has over 110 million streaming subscribers and aims to personalise the artwork that is used, for each of it’s titles, to them. The images below represent how this personalisation currently works. On the left are 3 pieces of artwork from films that the user has recently watched and, on the right, is the outcome and impact for the artwork of “Good Will Hunting”. The top image shows the impact of a user that has been watching many romantic movies, showing artwork containing Matt Damon and Minnie Driver. This is in contrast to a user that has been watching many comedies that may be drawn towards watching more films staring Robin Williams. 


There are a number of challenges that this proposes, however, including the understanding of the impact of changing artwork between sessions. For example, does changing the artwork cause the title to become less recognisable? Is it harder to find? On one hand, better artwork is a good thing – but constant change can confuse people. Also, it becomes harder to associate the artwork with reasons why the user has selected the title in the first instance. 
Another challenge could also be the type of artwork used. For example, close up images may be great for some users and have a high impact rate , but a homepage filled with all close-up images does not represent a good user experience for Netflix. Here, it is key that there is a wide variety of artwork pools for each title to ensure diversity. 


So next time you open the Netflix account, have a look around and think about why you are being shown the artwork that you are, what does Netflix know about you?


References:
Netflix (Dec 2017), https://medium.com/netflix-techblog/artwork-personalization-c589f074ad76

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