Netflix Shakes Up Rating System, Swaps Stars for Thumbs Up/Down

     March 17, 2017


Netflix has long employed a 5-star rating system to better tailor the movies and TV shows provided to you, the viewer. The system wasn’t intended to give an idea of how good a program was, either from the perspective of viewers or critics (like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes), but rather how close something was to what you wanted to watch. If you gave 5-star ratings to every Adam Sandler movie but shot down pretentious documentaries through 1-star ratings, Netflix took that into consideration and, along with info gathered from viewers like you, pumped more Sandler-like fare into your viewing pipeline.

While that’s still the streaming content giant’s approach, their rating system will be simplified into a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down approach. As EW reports, this change isn’t just to dumb down the process of thoughtfully reviewing a program, it’s to encourage viewers to rate them in the first place. In a press briefing, Netflix executive Todd Yellin said that, when testing the system last year, “users volunteered 200% more ratings when faced with a simple up or down choice than when having five options.” He also mentioned that the ratings scale was losing meaning since people tended to rank things like award-worthy documentaries higher than the more mindless genre fair, but tended to watch the latter more than the former.


Image via Netflix

But to compensate for the gradient loss, Netflix is also adding a percentage system that matches compatibility with your viewing habits rather than the quality of the program itself. So if you see that Sandler’s new film has a 90% next to it, that means you’re totes gonna love it, bro. And at the same time, if you make a concerted effort to lowball Amy Schumer‘s work on the site, her future content will just show up with a much lower percentage for viewers like you, if it even shows up in your feed at all.

Here’s how Netflix describes their current rating system:

We offer thousands of titles to stream — that’s a lot! When you rate movies and TV shows, you’re helping us filter through the thousands of selections to get a better idea of what you’d like to watch.


How does it all work? We use a recommendation algorithm that takes certain factors into consideration, such as:


  • The genres of movies and TV shows available.
  • Your streaming history, and previous ratings you’ve made.
  • The combined ratings of all Netflix members who have similar tastes in titles to you.

Netflix gives you the option to rate movies and TV shows that you’ve watched or that have been recommended to you on a 1-5 star rating scale, with a one star rating meaning ‘Hated It,’ and a five star rating meaning ‘Loved It.’ Star ratings in red indicate an overall Netflix rating for the title and star ratings in yellow indicate the rating you’ve given the title.


You can also rate titles from the movie description page for a movie or TV show. You can see all of the titles you’ve previously rated by clicking on Ratings under the My Profile section of Your Account.


Rating movies and TV shows is an easy way for you to help teach us what you like. The more titles you rate, the better our suggestions will be.

You can expect Netflix’s goals of bringing you viewer-specific content to stay the same; the only thing changing is that they’re making it easier for you to let them know your thoughts, Roman emperor style.



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