Recommendation is Great, Except When it’s Not


Is Netflix Becoming To Big to Please Everyone?

By Todd Viegut, Kannuu CEO

With over 48 million members in more than 40 countries enjoying more than one billion hours of TV shows and movies per month, including a growing offering of hugely successful original series, Netflix is today the darling of OTT and the world’s leading Internet television network.

Kannuu 4Perhaps the most vital ingredient to Netflix’s on-demand success is the company’s commitment to an extensive personalized video-recommendation system based on ratings and reviews by its customers.

But Netflix’s recommendation prowess and voluminous navigation grid, which served the company well in catapulting its OTT service into mainstream TV, is seemingly losing its luster as consumers have grown weary of the endless scrolling that has become synonymous with the Netflix search and discovery experience.

Most notably, TV talk show host Bill Maher lampooned Netflix search and discovery in his show’s wildly popular “New Rules” segment.

Quipped Maher, “New Rule – Since the business of Netflix is showing movies, they have to explain to us why they make it deliberately impossible to find a movie!”

Changing TV viewing habits change everything

Netflix’s continued success hinges heavily on its ability to adapt its search and discovery experience to changing TV viewing habits.

More specifically, Netflix needs to do a better job with direct search. Today, Netflix remains wedded to the woefully inadequate, consumer-loathed, hunt-and-peck onscreen keyboard.

NetFlix is by no means alone on this score. Much to the consternation of consumers, virtually every player in the TV-based video entertainment universe (Pay-TV, VOD, OTT, MSO, etc.) employs the onscreen keyboard for direct search, representing what we at Kannuu believe is the TV industry’s greatest, collective failure of innovation in the connected-TV era.)

Netflix letter-grid SearchAccording to Wired, 95% of consumers rank finding what they want to watch when they want to watch it the number one smartTV feature they desire.

Veveo reports that 80% of users know what they want to watch on TV half the time or more.

Time-shifted TV viewing and binge watching are also on the rise, as reported by Harris Interactive and Rentrak, among many other industry pundits.

Time-shifters and binge viewers know exactly what they want to watch before engaging a service, and as the shortest path between two points is a straight line, direct search — re-envisioned and properly presented — is the best tool for bringing content quickly and easily to the consumers who know what they want to watch.

Netflix has not been deaf to the mounting dissatisfaction with its search and discovery feature.

During his keynote presentation at Internet Week held May 19 -25 in New York City, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt discussed Netflix’s plan to phase out its current navigation interface in favor of a more refined and personalized layout.

Said Hunt, “Our vision is, you won’t see a grid and you won’t see a sea of titles […] Instead, Netflix will deliver increasingly personalized recommendations.”

While no one outside of Netflix can say exactly what this new format will look like, we can hope, for starters, that Netflix will elevate the role of direct search — and do away with the onscreen keyboard in the process.

Kannuu accomplishes this by replicating on the TV screen the directional pad (D-pad) featured on every remote control — accompanied, of course, by stunning video artwork, clear viewing options and ‘aha’ visual prompts.

kannuu 2In the backend, advanced train-of-thought algorithms, partial-word segmentation techniques and a comprehensive recommendation engine crunches data in real-time.

Using just the D-pad on the remote nestled in their hand and looking only at the screen in front of them, the Kannuu search and discovery system empowers consumers to rediscover the efficient power of direct search — now custom-built for the TV screen — to find the movie of their choice in a matter of seconds with only a few button presses.

Netflix is great at recommendation, and recommendation is great, except when it’s not.

Time shifting and binge viewing are just two examples of when the need for direct search trumps recommendation. There are many, many others, and when they inevitably arise in the daily habits of TV viewers the absence of easy-to-use direct search on the TV screen is conspicuous. More accurately stated, it is downright off-putting.

Any concerns that elevating direct search might expose a shortcoming in a service provider’s library of content are ill-founded, misguided and flat out wrongheaded.

kannuu 3What better opportunity can there be to showcase the beauty of recommendation than when a system knows right off the bat exactly what a consumer is searching for?

Consumers are demanding. They want what they want when they want it.

Consumers are fickle. If displeased with a service, especially with its search and discovery gateway, they will move on in a heartbeat.

Consumers are fanatic. Give them what they want, and their loyalty is cemented, their endorsements fly, and their wallets open.