netflix random episode order

Netflix has been changing the way we watch TV, leading the cord-cutting phenomenon and disrupting the movie and TV industries with its slew of acclaimed original titles. But could it soon be changing the order in which we watch a show? Viewers of Netflix’s latest original show Love, Death & Robots noticed over the weekend that the experimental animated anthology series was shown in different episode orders per person. The streaming giant confirmed that it has been testing Netflix random episode order with Love, Death & Robots, which raises the question: Will Netflix be rolling out randomized episode orders for more of its original shows?

The revelation that Netflix was testing random episode orders came via Twitter, where viewers of Love, Death & Robots realized that noticed that episode order of the animated anthology series changed with each person. Due to the series’ focus on sex and LGBT issues, users at first assumed that the different episode orders were determined by their sexuality (information that Netflix does not have), but Netflix quickly debunked those theories by informing concerned viewers that the service was testing randomized episode orders with Love, Death & Robots.

“We’ve never had a show like Love, Death & Robots before so we’re trying something completely new: presenting four different episode orders,” Netflix wrote on its Twitter account. “The version you’re shown has nothing to do with gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity — info we don’t even have in the first place.”

Lukas Thoms, a co-founder of Out in Tech who originally started the assumption that Netflix was ordering episodes based on sexuality, followed up that “apparently the episode ordering is just a 100% random A/B test that doesn’t involve any ML.”

This is not the first time that Netflix’s randomized testing has garnered some criticism — its customizing of show and movie thumbnails on its homepage garnered some outcry when users observed that the thumbnails seemed to be personalized by race or gender. However, while randomized episode orders have been confirmed to not be connected to sexuality, it does present the issue of whether Netflix has the right to tinker with the viewing experience.

Is This Something Netflix Will Test With Future Shows?

Netflix has never been one to shy away from trying to experiment with the “viewing experience,” whether it be creating interactive “choose-your-own adventure” experiences, or allegedly changing the endings of popular movies. But what benefit could randomizing episode orders have?

For anthology series, I guess it doesn’t matter. And it could possibly liven up the viewer experience so that they get something new each time they rewatch something. I wonder if this is a feature that Netflix will start to test with non-original titles, however. I hope not, as that could definitely mess with creator intention. But this could be the start of a new feature that we can expect from Netflix soon.

What do you think of Netflix testing randomized episode orders?

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