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Netflix’s lists of its top 10 movies and shows of 2019 might be fake

Published Dec 31st, 2019 10:12AM EST
Netflix Movies
Image: Olly Curtis/Future/Shutterstock

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Netflix earlier this week announced the top 10 most popular releases of 2019, the top 10 most popular movies for 2019, as well as the top 10 most popular series of the year, which should give you an idea of what’s good to watch right now. However, you should not trust Netflix completely, because these lists are somewhat misleading and seem to push original Netflix content of questionable quality.

We’ve already covered the lists — you can see which titles made the cut in our earlier coverage — and they do include plenty of movies and shows that should be on your to-watch list. Series like Stranger Things 3 and The Witcher are easy winners, while movies including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Irishman, and even 6 Underground are definitely entertaining.

But the problem with these lists, as Gizmodo points out, is that they’re not completely objective and we have two big problems with them. First of all, Netflix doesn’t offer any actual metric for these lists, so we have no idea how “top” is being measures. Secondly, all these lists contain this annoying fine print, emphasis ours:

Titles released this month incorporate viewing predictions. Lists based on titles released on Netflix in 2019. Lists are ranked based on accounts that choose to watch two minutes or more of a title during its first 28 days on Netflix in 2019.

What the block of text above tells us is that Netflix does indeed count views for its shows, even if it’s not willing to reveal figures. But it’s all extremely superficial. Watching just two minutes of a show, which is about as long as a trailer that Netflix auto-plays and shoves down your throat whether you like it or not, shouldn’t count towards anything.

But the worst thing about it is that Netflix uses “viewing predictions” in these rankings. In other words, the top ten lists above include titles that were ranked based on Netflix’s expectations for what portion of its subscribers are going to watch at least two minutes of these movies or TV series over the course of the month following their release.

There’s no doubt that Netflix has internal tools that can offer predictions on how a new title will fare, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s unlikely that all of Netflix’s predictions can be precise, and that’s because factors that are out of its control, including reviews and online buzz about a certain title, can mess with those numbers. Even if Netflix would somehow employ the best artificial intelligence and machine learning computers in town and its predictions are close to perfection, these “What We Watched” lists can’t include “What We Might Watch” predictions. Earlier this month, Netflix released The Witcher, 6 Underground, and You Season 2, and all of them are on a list.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.