The start of a new year is an ideal time for personal reflection. It's also the time of year when many tech companies and services gift users with a nice retrospective look at the year in review by analyzing all the user data they collect.
In December, social feeds were inundated with posts sharing Spotify Wrapped results and Top Nine posts on Instagram. Last week, Google sent me a not not creepy breakdown of everywhere I traveled and my favorite local hangouts from the past year. Facebook, for what it's worth, is always there to remind you of how long you've been connected with friends and how much you've "liked" each other on their site. Pocket Casts tracks all your podcast listening habits and breaks down how much time you've saved by skipping intros, removing silence, and listening to variable speeds. Done right, these data wrap-ups are good fun that also help us to inform us of our habits, whether they be good or bad.
And then there's Netflix, arguably the most popular streaming service and a company that relies heavily on big data to not only track what people are watching but also to figure out what people might want to watch next. For all that Netflix knows about my streaming habits, it shouldn't be asking too much to see a year in review of my Netflix statistics from 2018.
We can all agree there's great potential here for some really interesting data breakdown of all of our Netflix binging habits, and it's no secret that Netflix is meticulously tracking from behind the scenes — it's how they figure out which projects to produce and which movie and TV show rights to pursue.
There's just so much interesting data that could be compiled. I want to know how much time I've spent watching, and also comparisons between the different profiles on my Netflix account to see how my viewing habits stack up against my other family members. I want to know my longest binge-watching sessions and my total watch time for the year (as depressing as those numbers might be).
I want to know how much time I've saved by skipping over intros, and how much time I've wasted browsing through the menu looking for something good to watch. I want to see a pie chart breakdown how I watch Netflix between the website and the times I use the Netflix apps on my phone, tablet, NVIDIA Shield, and Xbox One. And perhaps most redundantly, I just want Netflix to reaffirm my love for specific genres, shows, and movies — just like how Spotify does for my music tastes.
Netflix gets partial credit for releasing some data on the most popular shows of 2018 but I'm more than a little skeptical with these datasets. To me, these lists come off more like clever marketing tools for Netflix Originals rather than genuine snapshots of our collective viewing habits.
Some of the data straight up doesn't make sense, like if Marvel shows like Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage were among the most popular shows streamed last year, why is Netflix canceling them? Why the hell would Netflix spend $100 million to secure the streaming rights to Friends through 2019 if it wasn't one of the most popular shows on the service, right? I personally re-watched the entirety of The Office multiple times last year — more times than I'd care to admit, frankly — and I would hazard to guess that a good chunk of Netflix users are also serial streamers of Netflix's nostalgic offerings.
So come on, Netflix. Give us all a little peek at all that fun and informative streaming data you've been collecting on us. The best you currently offer is a bare-bones look at our recent streaming activity based on our devices and location, and even that is useless unless you're maybe trying to find out if your ex is still using your Netflix login. You can do way better than that, and considering how you keep on jacking up your subscription prices, the least you could do is have some fun sharing our streaming habits.
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