Netflix retired its user reviews feature on July 31 of this year, citing “declining usage.” But analysis of user rating data performed by Cordcutting.com suggests that the streaming giant may have had an ulterior motive: Netflix’s original content was faring increasingly poorly in the years leading up to Netflix’s decision.
Netflix has been churning out more and more original productions (self-commissioned and not) each year since 2011. It’s no secret that the company’s reputation with critics has eroded as its output has increased. But in the case of Netflix’s built-in review system, the critics panning the latest Netflix shows were the Netflix users themselves.
Working with data collected from Netflix’s website prior to the July 31 takedown date, we found that the average user ratings of Netflix’s original series and movies had been declining steadily every year since 2012 before being eliminated in 2018.
Some originals still enjoyed positive reviews in Netflix’s system and in broader media, but the productions in aggregate saw review scores slip by 24 percent from their 2012 high as more and more of Netflix’s originals garnered mediocre or outright bad reviews. Netflix’s review system predated all of its original series and movies, and it’s fair to ask if user reviews simply aren’t a wise business move for a company that creates and owns some of its content. When that content is getting battered by bad user reviews, the answer seems obvious.
Netflix isn’t conceding that its originals’ poor reviews had anything to do with the end of the review program, but the decision does spare the still-increasing slate of originals from whatever critical ire might otherwise have been laid on them in 2019.
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