Netflix is now an inseparable part of our culture, but few people know the secrets behind the cheerful red and white logo: purposeful deception, secret warehouses, and a foundation story based on lies.
Secret, super-specific categories
Opening Netflix is daunting — there are so many movies and TV shows. What to watch? The genre categories don’t help at all. Sure, an action movie sounds good, but that’s such a wide genre, it can include everything. If only Netflix had a way to narrow the search down to something more specific.
Turns out it does! Netflix itself has a hard time with the unwieldy amount of content, so the website organizes by very specific genres. They just don’t appear on the user side interface. But we can hack Netflix to organize movies by oddly specific genres. Instead of searching through Netflix, users can type in the URL “http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/####" where the #### represents a specific numeric code corresponding to an oddly specific genre. You just have to know the code.
Nobody knows why Netflix doesn’t allow users to search for very specific genres without knowing the codes, but with this knowledge, Netflix gets a lot more fun. In the mood for something mind-twisting and (for some reason) specifically German? Use the code 6546 to access the genre “Cerebral German Language Movies.” Code 6541 opens up “Critically Acclaimed Emotional Independent Dramas,” complete with Miss Stevens and Fish Tank, movies so emotional, nobody’s ever seen them. Die-hard John Savage fans can use code 6536 to see all the movies starring him. There are so many codes, a whole website is dedicated to cataloging them, perfect for a night of staying in with a picky friend or significant other.
Netflix depends on pirating websites to tell them what shows to get
We’ve all experienced the most crushing disappointment of modern society: after getting all comfortable on the couch with a nice cup of tea or a bottle of beer, we open up Netflix only to find the movie we want to watch … isn’t streaming. It’s the worst! We either find something else, or some people (not anybody that works at Grunge … ahem …) go to their favorite pirate websites and watch it anyways.
Netflix knows we do this, but instead of getting angry and trying to crack down on pirating websites, they developed a clever plan. To find out which movies and TV shows they should acquire a license to, Netflix monitors the traffic on pirating sites and takes notes of which shows are getting stolen most frequently, turning them into the new content on Netflix. This is Netflix’s ace in the hole — using it, they will always have the content that’s most popular on the internet. Presumably, their company fridge is always stocked with rum.
This also explains why the content on Netflix randomly changes. When new stuff comes out on it, there are always the things you expect (new Marvel movies, Transformer 14 or whatever they’re up to by now), along with a bunch of seemingly random movies and TV shows. Most likely, that content is hot on pirating sites, and Netflix is trying to get a piece of that metaphorical booty. It’s in an ethical grey area, but nobody really cares, as long as they constantly get rad new content.
Where its disk warehouses are
In a shocking turn of events, Netflix still does DVD rentals. Surprising, right? Even in this age of streaming video services, the DVD rentals still go strong. But how do they get the DVDs shipping so fast? Well, dotting the continental United States, there are warehouses filled with movies, ready to ship out. They exist, but good luck finding them. Netflix acts like the warehouses are holding the Ark of the Covenant or alien remains — they’re that impossible to find.
The whole setup is like something out of a Cold War spy movie. Although nearly sixty warehouses are in operation, they’re all hidden in plain sight. None of the warehouses sport the company logo, or even the familiar red and white color scheme. From the outside, they are bland buildings, but they’re hiding a huge stock of entertainment. Employees sign confidentiality agreements when they start working, saying that none of them can ever reveal the locations of the warehouses.
Thinking about tracking the delivery trucks to and from the warehouses? Get ready for some early-morning stakeouts — Netflix delivery vans are unmarked, and dispatch at 3:00 in the morning to local post offices. Random delivery vans in office parks don’t draw any attention. Chances are, some people reading this work right next to a Netflix warehouse and never noticed it. So if you’re looking to acquire, say, thousands of copies of Ghost, keep those eyes open for 3 AM delivery trucks in your office park.
Netflix binges could lower your sperm count
We all binge watch. Seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation aren’t going to watch themselves! While binge watching is super fun, Netflix doesn’t want their male viewers to know that it can come at an … alarming cost. According to research, binge watching impacts family planning, as in it drastically decreases sperm count.
A Dutch study was the first to point out the correlation. Men who watched five or more hours of TV daily had 29% lower sperm concentration, and 34% lower sperm count. The researchers weren’t able to find out exactly why. Barring something crazy like subliminal anti-sperm messages coming from our TVs, the researchers believed that it had to do with the lack of exercise, and increases in scrotal temperature caused by long periods of stillness.
In summary, short bursts of watching is probably way better for both you and your little swimmers. Although we may feel more manly watching Don Draper six hours a day, that Mad Men marathon could wreck chances of making any Mad Babies. So it’s surprising Netflix wouldn’t address this, since they’re depriving themselves of future customers!
Netflix purposefully shipped DVDs faster to renters who rented less
Those who’ve rented DVDs from Netflix know the pain when a movie randomly takes forever to show up. By time it shows up, we realize making a shot-for-shot remake would’ve been faster. There’s a reason for this delay, and it’s infuriating: Netflix purposefully messes around with DVD shipping times, making it take longer for those who rent more.
Known as throttling, the technique is super-controversial. Even though everybody is paying the same price for the service. Netflix will ship the DVDs to less-frequent-renters quicker. Since Netflix fees are a fixed rate, people who rent all the time cost the company more money in shipping and handling. By slowing the DVD consumption of these renters, the company balances out its operating costs. It’s also designed to keep new customers paying by providing A+ service, but also aggravates long-time customers who find their DVDs suddenly showing up at a snail’s pace.
Nobody knows if Netflix still engages in throttling, since the only to confirm it is to spend three weeks waiting for your copy of Eat, Pray, Love. That said, there’s no reason for them to stop, especially since nobody really pays attention to the DVD side of their business any more. This is especially true after it was revealed that Netflix purposefully slowed down streaming rates for certain wireless customers, so they didn’t exceed their data limit. Although, at least that time it was for the customer’s benefits. The DVD throttling is just a jerk move.
Netflix intentionally left key evidence out of Making a Murderer
In 2015 everyone suddenly became super opinionated about the Wisconsin criminal justice system, because of the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. Documenting the trial and sentencing of Steve Avery after the murder of Teresa Halbach, the show sparked tremendous outrage about the gross miscarriage of justice surrounding Avery’s trial. Or at least, that’s what the show wanted us to think.
To viewers, the case seemed pretty open and shut: Avery was framed. The people of Manitowoc were horribly biased. Nobody can have faith in our criminal justice system. But what viewers didn’t know is that the show purposefully left out key pieces of evidence that puts Avery’s innocence in serious question.
For example, in the months leading up to Teresa Halbach’s murder, Avery had called Autotrader multiple times, requesting that Halbach come out to his lot and take photos. While there, Avery made her so uncomfortable, she told her boss she never wanted to go back again, fearing for her safety. Right before the murder, Avery had purchased leg irons and handcuffs exactly like the ones that Brendan Dassey had described in his coerced testimony. Avery also had a history of violent fantasies, threatening to kill and mutilate his former wife.
Who knows exactly what happened to Teresa Halbach, but the case was certainly more two-sided than what we saw. Still, that provides little comfort about how the American criminal justice system works. And we are definitely not road-tripping to Manitowoc County any time soon.
Daredevil was initially impossible to watch for blind people
Enjoying TV and movies as a blind person is difficult. Sure, blind people can hear the show, but when the action is entirely visual, it’s impossible to know what’s going on. A lot of movies and TV shows will have a special audio track attached to them that describes what’s happening on screen. Netflix is notorious for omitting this feature, infuriating the blind community who, you know, wants to watch Netflix.
The frustrating reached fever pitch when Netflix released Daredevil. Since the titular hero is blind, the blind community assumed Netflix would take the opportunity to include blind accessibility. Nope. They completely ignored it. Out of all the shows on Netflix, you’d think this would be the one accessible to blind people. It was a giant middle finger to the blind community.
Netflix responded after the outrage, saying they were on the adding-audio-descriptions bandwagon. Even then, they were laughably slow at doing so, taking months to get it working. All the while, they would shift blame to the makers of the shows, which is a weird excuse when talking about a Netflix original. Eventually, they added audio descriptions, but it’s still baffling they didn’t do it before Season 1. What’s next, a show about a deaf guy without subtitles?
Binge watching is terrible for your health
As mentioned earlier, decreasing sperm count from binge watching is a big issue, but it ties into a more general truth that Netflix doesn’t want you to know: binge watching is absolutely terrible for our health. It’s not just one or two aspects — binging Netflix is a wrecking ball in our heads and bodies, causing all sorts of issues.
Studies show that binge watching can increase chances of mental health issues, causing an addiction to form and making viewers antisocial. Binge watching also eats up a ton of concentrated time that we could use for other activities that could improve our lives. Shockingly, binge watching also makes us enjoy a show less. We become accustomed to the show and our enjoyment of it decreases, just like a new car gets less exciting the more we drive it. The novelty of the experience falls apart, leaving us in a pit of TV despair, constantly searching for a new entertainment fix to make us feel something.
And it’s not just affecting our brains. Binge watching also wrecks our bodies, causing an increased risk of cancer and chronic diseases that comes from a sedentary Netflix lifestyle. No matter how many episodes of House we watch, the health benefits just do not exist. Adding it all up, there is an ugly truth: Netflix is killing us.
Founder Reed Hastings has tried to erase his co-founder
Ask Netflix CEO Reed Hastings how he came up with the idea of Netflix, and he will tell you a heartwarming story. Back in the dark ages of Blockbuster and video rental stores, Hasting rented Apollo 13. After enjoying the movie, he went to return it and — horror of horrors — got hit with a late fee. In a fit of righteous indignation, Hastings vowed to single-handedly create a service that would make late fees a thing of the past. Netflix was born!
That’s a cool story, except it’s totally made up. The truth was more mundane — it was just Hastings and his co-founder, Marc Randolph, coming up with an idea for a video renting service. Ever heard of Marc Randolph? Probably not — nobody has. The guy co-founded Netflix and then disappeared off the face of the Earth, and not by his own design. It was not a self-imposed exile — Hastings is deliberately erasing Randolph from existence.
The official company website barely mentions the co-founder, and Hastings has made up this feel-good story about the Netflix’s inception, seemingly to erase Randolph’s contribution. What is going on here? Is it just an ego trip on Hasting’s part, or is it something darker? Nobody really knows. Neither founder talks much about those early days. Maybe there was a power struggle, violent arguments, or sexual intrigue. You know, somebody should make a TV show about that. Then we could stream it on Netflix.
Originally published at www.airsassociation.org.