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Netflix is nixing its old star-rating system for one you might use

Netflix stars
Dieing stars.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If you’ve ever felt pressured to distill your feelings about a Netflix show into one of its five star values (five being the highest), Netflix understands. It’s about to make its ratings system simpler.

The streaming-video giant is replacing its star ratings with “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons, echoing the ratings icons used by Facebook, YouTube, and Pandora. The new system will roll out in the coming weeks, Variety reported.

Instead of the row of stars that usually displays below Netflix titles when users hover over them or click for more details, members will see personalized “percent-match” scores based on how compatible Netflix thinks the title is. A show that fits perfectly with a viewers’ behavior and preferences might display a 98% match rating, for example. Match-ratings below 50% reportedly won’t be displayed.

The old star system also measured compatibility—how much Netflix thought you would enjoy a title—not quality. But some members found that confusing because star ratings have traditionally been used to indicate the quality of a piece of entertainment, Netflix said. So, a user might have given a show like The Crown five stars because the production was well done, even if it wasn’t their cup of tea. And that rating would have affected the recommendations surfaced for the user moving forward.

The new system simply asks whether you liked the program or not.


Netflix reportedly tested the ratings system on hundreds of thousands of subscribers in 2016 and found that the thumbs resulted in three times as many ratings as the stars, Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product said during a press briefing yesterday. The company regularly tests new features on its subscribers.

The thumbs also helped Netflix make more accurate recommendations, Yellin said. With the old system, Netflix found that users would rate content they watched less often more highly. They’d award more stars to higher quality programs like documentaries than to comedies, for example, but, in practice, watched funny shows and movies more often.

“We made ratings less important because the implicit signal of your behavior is more important,” Yellin reportedly said.

It might also reduce the influence of supposed organized efforts designed to game the ratings for certain Netflix programs. That’s what comedian Amy Schumer claims happened with her recent standup special The Leather Special, which currently has a little more than two stars out of five on Netflix. Schumer referenced a Split Sider analysis that said alt-right groups who organized on Reddit may have brought the ratings down.

So, what happens to your old, meticulously thought-out star ratings? They’ll disappear from view, but the metadata will continue to fuel Netflix’s recommendation engines. Part of the reason Netflix is ready to move on from its star system is that subscribers have already done a decent job rating its library. Netflix reportedly had over 10 billion five-star ratings at one point, and more than half of its users had rated more than 50 titles, Variety reported.

Update (3pm ET): This post was updated with additional details from Netflix on how the new ratings system will look in the platform.

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