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Suspiciously soon after receiving poor ratings for a few shows, including a number of their own original series, Netflix has decided to do away with the 5-star rating system and to replace it with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down option. Beginning in April, all user profiles will have this new style of rating system. According to several articles from sources such as The New York Post that quote Todd Yellin (Netflix’s president of product), this change is simply because “five stars feels so yesterday,” but why change a perfectly good and universally used system?

The 5-star system offers a spectrum of opinion and gives an opportunity for a variety of constructive criticism, praise, and rejection, all of which are necessary for refining the creative process for show and entertainment development. Regardless of what show or film is being watched and rated, there are the in-betweens where viewers like a film or show for one thing or dislike it for another, and that is an advantage to the 5-star system – the opinions that accompany the rating, which should influence how well a show or film does, since those who are rating are the consumers and legitimate audiences.

Let it be good, let it be bad, and risk vulnerability. Not all people will agree with creators or other audience members, and that’s perfectly fine; it should be expected. Ratings are not about making people feel better about a bad performance but should celebrate what’s great and inspire those seeking to achieve or working to make something better. Such a variety and freedom of audience expression is the advantage of the 5-star system, and it adds variety in the entertainment industry.

In an interview with The Verge, Todd Yellin also stated that this new binary method would be more about refining the experience than telling the world what one thinks about a particular piece. Algorithms and percent matching will be used, meaning the shows a user has already watched will be matched with other shows that they might also watch and how likely it is they will enjoy it. However, changing this to thumbs-up/thumbs down seems to eliminate the experience of discussion that is an essential part of being an audience.

It focuses more on a black-and-white reaction (which is still possible on a 5-star system) rather than listening to a viewer’s experience and audience discussion, by whittling down responses to a pitiful two options rather than asking for the feedback creators needs to hear. It minimizes thinking. They could use thumbs-up/thumbs-down solely for a yay or nay response to the question, “Do I want to watch this again or something similar to this?” and keep the 5-star system for reviews and still achieve greater rating/response numbers.

So some positive thoughts on the change before closing out: it is simpler and faster. More people will give feedback; it won’t be as precise, but a lot more people (up to 200% more in a beta test done by Netflix) will participate, which is what any business should want in the amount of feedback. It falls in line with the social media immediate response and reaction theme with which so many of us are already familiar. What do you think? Is the 5-star system a has-been, or should it be upheld as tradition?

– Kelly Gatewood
Follow me on Twitter @asthewindrises



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