So Netflix Search Sucks

So Netflix has the worst search capability ever. I can’t even adequately search for a genre such as “history channel” without returning results like Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales and Charge. Seriously, that’s one of the top results. So I decided to see if they have an API so I can write my own program to return legit results. Of course Netflix has closed their public API. Netflix, you’ve reached a new level of “suckitude”.

So I searched for "History Channel" on Netflix and this is what I got

So I searched for “History Channel” on Netflix and this is what I got

Screw it, I’ll watch Cars Toons. And this really sums up Netflix. My inability to find what I want coupled with innate laziness is a microcosm for my continued use of their service. It’s so cheap, that I say “why not” and continue to give them eight or so dollars a month. I think millions of other people have this same mindset and so Netflix is able to make 8 multiplied by millions per month… It’s unbelievable and brilliant at the same time.

They have a monopoly on streaming and it shows. The service is sub-par. Netflix could really use some competition to either put them out of business or stir a little innovation. You can find more and more baffling results. Searches for “History” and “Historical Documentaries” yield head scratchers like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Short Game.

What the heck is The Short Game? Well per the description its a documentary about “Eight grade schoolers tee off to compete in a junior world championship at North Carolina’s prestigious Pinehurst golf course.” Yes this is clearly what I am looking for when searching for history related documentaries.

It’s obvious Netflix search is terrible. Perhaps its a little unfair that I am searching for only history. Is it though? When I perform a search for historical documentaries on YouTube I get plenty of great results like Secrets of the Ancient Empires – The First Cities (History Documentary) and History of Britain: Life Before the Romans | BBC Documentary. Even when I search for a documentary on the Battle of Alesia which occurred nearly 2,000 years ago I get multiple hits.

Netflix is a crappy service, with a crappy search, and it won’t even let its customers fix it by opening up its API. At this point I am not even sure allowing me access to their API would help though. One of two things are likely: One, what I am looking for doesn’t exist on Netflix. Two, the meta data on their titles is so terrible that I wouldn’t even be able to find what I’m looking for without considerable work and cross-referencing other APIs.

It’s amazing that a service like Pandora, which in many ways is not so different from Netflix is so on the money in getting me what I want. It’s effortless really. Entering in a single song, genre, or artist name will instantly yield a station I absolutely love. Pandora does this making a tenth of what Netflix makes. Of course Pandora has legitimate competitors like Grooveshark and Spotify. Netflix has?

1 Comment

  • Greg W says:

    First there was “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Now, too many tech companies have a culture of, “it works, so break it.” I remember a time when a search on Netflix used to yield some pertinent results and the presentation was in the ballpark of expectations from a tech company. Now, as you say, it sucks beyond belief. I found this page out of frustration on a search for Ben Stiller. Not only are the search results bad, but their presentation is so bad that I can only scratch my head and wonder, what happened? There are only ten results per page with no options to customize. The order of the results appears to be random, it certainly isn’t by date, title, or any other measure that one could extract from typical media meta-data. Of course, sort order can’t be customized either. Is this the product of corporate hubris? Was Netflix in its entirety outsourced to India?