Love, Death + Robots: Netflix experiments with episode orders
James R | On 21, Mar 2019
Netflix is experimenting with showing episodes in different orders for its new animated series, Love, Death + Robots.
The anthology of short films is presented by Fight Club helmer David Fincher and Deadpool director Tim Miller and comprises 18 tales of love, heartbreak and lots of inter-dimensional fornication. Together, they cover everything from sentient dairy products, werewolf soldiers, robots gone wild, garbage monsters, cyborg bounty hunters, alien spiders and blood-thirsty demons from hell.
The order in which you see each of these, however, is not guaranteed. Netflix has long tinkered with tailoring content to each individual subscriber, not only in terms of what films or TV shows are featured on a user’s homepage but also the actual artwork used to present each title – right down to whether a main character or supporting character is featured on the thumbnail poster. Now, it’s taking that algorithmic personalisation even further, by changing up the order in which people watch Love, Death + Robots.
The shuffling was first spotted by a Twitter user, Lukas Thoms, who noticed that in his Netflix account, the anthology opened with “Sonnie’s Edge”, a story about lesbian characters, while in a friend’s account, the collection kicked off with “Beyond the Aquila Rift”, a story about heterosexual characters.
“Just discovered the most INSANE thing,” he tweeted
A final update: a friend I trust at Netflix looked into this, and apparently the episode ordering is just a 100% random A/B test that doesn't involve any ML. Identity-based recommendations are still a good discussion to have, in this case it was just random!
— Lukas Thoms (@LukasThoms) March 19, 2019
Whatever order you see in your account, the experiment marks yet another new way in which online streaming can potentially change the way we consume entertainment – and the way that our data can be used to determine the actual nature of that entertainment.