What’s more, with its concentration on streaming rather than DVDs by mail, Netflix has given up on its star-based ratings system, and instead uses what it calls “implicit preferences” derived from “recent plays, ratings, and other interactions”. Again, I’m not sure this is an improvement — but it does fit in a much bigger strategic move chez Netflix. While Madrigal and I might still think of Netflix as an online version of your old neighborhood Blockbuster Video store, Netflix itself wants to replace something which accumulates many more viewer-eyeball-hours than Blockbuster ever did. It doesn’t want to be movies: it wants to be TV. That’s why it’s making original programming, and that’s why the options which come up on your Netflix screen when you first sign in are increasingly TV shows rather than movies.
I signed up for Netflix when it launched in the Netherlands last year. Its selection of movies is embarrassingly, comically bad. I think that when they launched, they had about twenty movies in the “sci-fi” category. Not twenty sci-fi movies featured on the home page; twenty movies (loosely classified) in the sci-fi genre at all.
On the other hand, they have more than enough TV shows that I’m happy to snack on for €7.99 a month: Breaking Bad, Chuck, The Thick of It, etc. etc. Given that the Dutch iTunes store still doesn’t offer any TV content, that’s basically what Netflix has become for me: TV.