Netflix has been getting member feedback on original content — ahead of its public release — for about a year, Variety has learned.
Since May 2021, the streamer has been reaching out to small groups of subscribers with a proposition: The company is inviting them to participate in a panel to provide feedback on Netflix’s upcoming movies and TV shows before they’re released publicly.
“We at Netflix are building a community of members to view and give feedback on upcoming movies and series, and we’d like to know if you’re interested in being a part of it,” according to a recent email sent to a group of subscribers, a copy of which was obtained by Variety. “It’s simple, but an incredibly important part of creating best-in-class content for you and Netflix members all around the world.”
Netflix confirmed that it has been running the subscriber-feedback panels, which have taken place only in the U.S.
Such focus-group testing is commonplace in Hollywood and has been for years. And Netflix routinely tests new features with a subset of its customer base as part of its product development process. For example, it conducted extensive testing before last year’s broad rollout of Play Something, a shuffle-play feature that picks a title for someone to watch based on their viewing history and watch lists. In addition, as is standard industry practice, Netflix provides prerelease screeners to entertainment critics.
For the customer-feedback panels, Netflix asks members to watch several upcoming movies and series over the course of about six months. After they finish watching each movie or series, members fill out a survey “to tell us what you liked, what you didn’t, how you’d make it even better, or how likely you’d be to recommend it to friends and family.”
Like other studios, Netflix is using the member feedback to potentially make edits in the movies and shows before they’re released. It’s worth noting that Netflix’s updated corporate-culture memo, released last week, includes a new “Artistic Expression” section that says it will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful.”
Netflix requires members who participate in the prerelease screenings to agree to keep the movies and series they watch confidential and to sign a nondisclosure agreement. According to the email, Netflix selects members who “represent a range of perspectives” for the panels.