Netflix will let customers express a deeper affection for TV shows or movies that they love — not just like — with the launch of a new ratings option: two thumbs up.
According to Netflix, the new feature will give the streamer a valuable signal into user preferences that will let it further refine content recommendations. The company says it’s a happy coincidence that the name hearkens back to the trademark “two thumbs up” seal of approval from famed movie reviewing duo Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
It’s the biggest change for Netflix’s user content ratings in five years, when the streamer discontinued the five-star content rating system in favor of the thumbs up/down paradigm, saying that the binary options provided a more reliable data set on which to base recommendations. The new “two thumbs up” option will appear next to the thumbs up and down buttons across all platforms, including connected TVs, web, and Android and iOS mobile devices starting Monday and rolling out worldwide throughout the week.
“We’ve heard from members that there’s a difference between something they liked — and something that they really loved,” said Christine Doig-Cardet, director of product innovation at Netflix. “We’re giving them more control and agency over what is being shown to them.”
A single thumbs-up still lets Netflix know what subscribers liked, but two thumbs up will be a stronger signal to feed into the content-recommendation algorithm. For example, if you give “Bridgerton” two thumbs up, you might see even more shows or films starring the show’s cast or other titles from Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland.
Originally, when Netflix started exploring the introduction of a “love” button, the team used a heart icon. “We thought giving a heart for love would be the most obvious metaphor,” Doig-Cardet said. However, numerous members in the tests said they were expecting to see a “two thumbs up” option, so that’s what Netflix went with (with the nod to Siskel & Ebert a bonus).
Back in 2017, after Netflix got rid of the five-star ratings scale, it saw higher rates of engagement from customers with thumbs up/down. But since then, members have “felt like those two options were not sufficient,” according to Doig-Cardet. The three options “strike the right balance of simplicity with giving enough range of emotion.”
Right now, Netflix doesn’t expect to intro a “two thumbs down” rating. The current single thumb down is not very widely used, so Netflix doesn’t see much incremental value in two thumbs down.
If people don’t like a show, they generally just stop watching it, Doig-Cardet said. Netflix also provides the ability for users to remove TV series from their continue-watching queue (an indication they didn’t like it). In addition, you can hide titles completely from Netflix menus and recommendations if you choose.
Netflix conducted global tests of “two thumbs up” in the second half of 2021, followed by several rounds of interviews and surveys. It saw a substantial increase in usage, as many members went back to titles they had previously watched to give those a double thumbs-up. Overall, Doig-Cardet said, the perception from members in the test groups has been that recommendations are getting better.
Doig-Cardet has herself been part of the test, during which she has given a two-thumbs-up to titles including Netflix’s limited series “The Queen’s Gambit.” Did it improve her recommendations? “Maybe I know too much to perceive any change,” she said with a laugh.