How Does Netflix Categorize Movies?

What makes a Screwball Comedy different from a Slapstick Comedy? Why is Son of the Pink Panther considered a comedy at all? These decisions — at least as far as Netflix is concerned — are being made by a few dozen folks throughout North America who get paid to watch — and answer questions about — everything from Chinatown to Transylmania.

Canada.com’s Russ Martin spent the day with a woman who makes some part-time cash as a movie tagger for Netflix.

She says she gets a list each week from Netflix HQ to let her know which handful of titles (around five at a time) she is supposed to watch and help to categorize.

While watching, she uses a spreadsheet to take notes of all the info that goes into the 100+ data points used by Netflix to tag each title.

“It covers everything from big picture stuff like storyline, scene and tone, to details of whether there is a lot of smoking in the movie,” the part-time tagger explains.

Netflix now employs around 40 taggers in the U.S. and Canada.

“We’re looking for people who have knowledge of movies and TV shows,” explains Todd Yellin, vice-president of product innovation at Netflix. He explains that the woman in Canada is a good fit because she is not just an independent film maker, but has also worked as a script supervisor — a very detail-oriented gig.

Potential taggers must successfully pass a test before being hired.

Yellin tells Martin that he sometimes uses Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox for the test because it’s a film that defies a lot of standard categorizing.

For their efforts, taggers earn a few hundred dollars a week.

How to get paid to watch Netflix [Canada.com via HackingNetflix.com]

Comments

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  1. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Must be the same people who work at Amazon and put Katy Perry in the “Rock” charts.
    Uh, no, sorry.

  2. eccsame says:

    Off topic, but I wish they had a shuffle button below your DVD queue. I wish I could just mix it up so I could get some of that stuff at the bottom up to the top without doing it myself. I mean, it might be nice if there was some way for it to select from my queue at random, if I wanted. I like surprises.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I think that would work for movies, but if you’re watching a television series, that might spoil some some of the plot lines.

      • sqlrob says:

        If it treated the series as a whole (e.g. next episode of a random series) instead of random episode, it would work fine.

  3. 2 Replies says:

    Netflix needs to source their categorizing to IMDB and TVDB.
    Those databases are crowd-source driven and actively checked for accuracy (usually by the people who are the MOST interested in the particular show).

    We all laugh at the Trekkies who anal-retentively correct every little minutia, and can recite the TINIEST detail about an obscure reference, but THOSE geeks are the BEST moderators for their chosen geeky content.

    • MarkFL says:

      You, sir, are a p’tak!

      • Qalthos says:

        Well, technically, it’s a petaQ.

        • MarkFL says:

          Memory Alpha lists a good many alternate spellings, including the one I used. Remember, native Klingon is not rendered in the Roman alphabet.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a plate of fresh gagh waiting for me.

  4. MarkFL says:

    The HR department at Netflix wishes to thank you, Chris Morran, for the 17 million job applications they have received in the 20 minutes since you posted this. They would thank you themselves, but they are, uh, kinda busy.

  5. framitz says:

    I don’t know how they come up with the categories and I don’t care. I don’t even look at that part of the description.

  6. cspschofield says:

    As someone who once worked in a video store (Suncoast, before they went belly-up) I can say that matching categories to movies is ALWAYS a headache. Is SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF a Western or a Comedy? Is SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (which, after all, features no supernatural elements at all) a Drama, a Thriller, or a Horror Film? Which doesn’t mean that some of the choices aren’t noteworthy bungles. I recall getting a Criterion Collection DVD of Jean Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST that was labeled “Disney”. I still want to know what the geek who decided that was smoking, and if I can have an ounce of it sent to my rooms.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Western Comedy. (Comedic Western?) is a legitimate category.

      “Silence of the Lambs” is ‘Cerebral Thriller.’ It isn’t a ‘Horror’ film because people getting killed is not the central theme.

      • cspschofield says:

        While I agree with your labels,it is easy to make categories so specific that they will only apply to a handful of films, which is questionably useful.

  7. Mary says:

    Why does an article called “how to get paid to watch Netflix” not have a link to how to actually apply?

    Because I’m an indie filmmaker and a script supervisor looking for a way to make extra money, so um, perfection.

  8. wildlife says:

    Why does Netflix keep suggesting movies to me that I’ve already watched and rated?