Netflix Needs Genius Playlists

I’m a cord cutter. I moved out on my own nearly eight years ago and have never ordered cable television, instead choosing to watch nearly all of my media through the internet. I have a fairly complicated media setup that includes a Mac Mini in the closet of my office recording over-the-air television and Apple TVs in my living room and bedroom for playback recorded shows.

But, most of what I watch still comes from internet sources — most notably, Netflix, YouTube, and Crackle. I have added one new source to my list of regulars, though, The WWE Network. The new streaming service from WWE that offers live streaming content, just like a traditional broadcast station and which includes all of the WWE’s pay-per-view events throughout the year at no additional cost. The $9.99 per month service also includes a large back catalog of pay-per-views from WWE, WCW, and ECW along with other wrestling shows available to stream on demand.

I was a huge wrestling fan about 10-15 years ago and have occasionally jumped back in to watch the occasional pay-per-view throughout the years. But, my interest in wrestling has settled into the level in which I listen to the Smart Wrestling Fan podcast weekly and occasionally watch a pay-per-view at a friend’s house. The biggest reason for this is that it’s nearly impossible to get regularly produced wrestling shows without access to cable television. Of course, all of this changed when the WWE launched their streaming network early last week and I decided to pay up the $60 for six months of the service.

The WWE Network is great and I’ve already watched countless hours of video through the service (primarily pay-per-views from 1998 that I couldn’t afford to watch when I was younger). But, what has really stood out for me was the live streaming aspect of the service. I know that no matter what time of day I can launch the WWE Network app on my Apple TV and start watching wrestling, it takes the decision making out of watching television that has become a bit of a burden over the years.

Whenever my girlfriend and I sit down to watch something on the Apple TV we start the process of searching to find something to watch. And, it’s not as if we fight about what we want to watch, it’s just that nothing we find feels worth watching anymore. Occasionally we’ll go through spurts where all we want to do is watch episodes from the same television show back to back because of how much we’re enjoying it (currently going through that with The Andy Griffith Show, also known as the best television show of all time). But, eventually the show starts to get a little boring and although we end up coming back to it eventually, we’re still left with the need to find something else.

Hunting to find something to watch isn’t new and it existed for me back when I would watch cable television as a kid, but when you have cable you always had the option of just changing to one of your favorite channels — Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Food Network, etc — and simply settling on whatever the channel is airing. It might not be your favorite show, but it was close enough and would do until something better came on. This concept has all but disappeared in internet media — turning anything on because sometimes you don’t want to make an actual decision.

I think the WWE Network did something very right when they decided to mix on-demand content with live scheduled programming and I wish Netflix would institute something similar with their service.

Netflix’s media offerings have seemed less and less appealing to me over the years. Don’t get me wrong there’s still some real gems available, but most of their content has looked pretty mediocre to me lately. And, it’s always difficult to decide what to watch in a sea of mediocre options. But, I bet I would enjoy a lot of the content available if I just started watching it.

What I propose is Netflix to develop genius playlists. Not only would episodes play back to back without having to use your remote to pick a new episode, but the content would be chosen for you. It could be done by hand by the folks at Netflix — setting up video playlists in which all of the content conform to a specific genre — or the playlist contents could be chosen by Netflix algorithms that take into account what shows or movies you have previously watched and rated. They could even do a combination of both. I can imagine every Netflix user being given a personalized genius playlist and three or four other playlists with content chosen by Netflix that each have their own genre. And, I think it would be handy if Netflix only offered you playlists they think you might enjoy based on what content you’ve shown an interest in. For instance I would be offered playlists for comedy, action, and drama, while my sister and brother-in-law might be offered comedy, documentary, and children & family playlists.

Certainly don’t take away the on-demand capabilities of Netflix, but I would love if they had a button that simply gave me something to watch. It would add a new dimension to Netflix that would both help users find new and interesting content and breath new life into the old on-demand style streaming media company. I wouldn’t mind choosing between a few genres — having a few options isn’t too bad — but sometimes it’s difficult to decide which episode of Everybody Loves Raymond I want to watch.