It took Netflix more than a decade to demonstrate that a personalized experience improved retention. But consistent growth in this proxy metric convinced the company to keep doubling down on personalization until many years later, Netflix proved that personalization improved retention in a large-scale retention test.

Gibson Biddle has an amazing retrospective of 20 years of personalization at Netflix, and its role in the company’s product strategy. The screenshots alone are worth the trip down memory lane.

This is an interesting proposition…

Here’s the long-term personalization vision: twenty years from now, Netflix will eliminate both the “Play Something” button and its personalized merchandising system, and that one special movie you’re in the mood to watch at that particular moment will automatically begin to play.

…not necessarily because of what this means for personalization (given a 20 year time horizon, this feels achievable), but what this would mean for creators. If the only decision is “Do I keep watching” how might that change the first few seconds of any new show or movie you’re watching? For better or worse, our next generation of filmmakers are currently learning and evolving these creative strategies on TikTok.

Avid reader, long time blogger, art nerd, Swiftie. I work at Medium.