Netflix remembers a lot about you. Probably even more than you think.
That includes how often you hit pause while streaming one of its shows.
Netflix on Tuesday used this data to talk about how, on Halloween night, people tend to press pause a lot – pauses go up by 30 percent. The theory of course is that viewers are stopping to give candy to trick-or-treaters at the door.
Peak pause time across the nation is at 7:29 p.m., Netflix says. A figure they showed off with this fun Stranger Things GIF.
Let's go back to the 'It tracks everything you do' thing
At this point, anyone who uses technology of any kind shouldn't be shocked that what they do is being tracked.
But just how much about your viewing habits is Netflix collecting?
Check out this Salon piece from 2013, before the debut of House of Cards – which was basically made in a lab using viewer preferences.
As the author writes, Netflix tracks what's are referred to as "events" – that's any interaction really, like hitting pause, stopping a shot, choosing to play a new one, etc. etc.
"Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. ... It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes."
From this, Netflix makes educated guesses about us, and a show. Maybe an episode is slow and people often quit at that spot; or a scene is really funny so people rewatch. Netflix recently talked about how it used this data to determine which episodes got people hooked on a series.
As the Netflix Tech Blog put it in 2015: "Our system needs to know each member’s entire viewing history for as long as they are subscribed."
What else do they know?
Here's a good example of how Netflix uses all this data: what it shows you when you log in.
You might have noticed if you log in on your Xbox on a Saturday morning, things are ordered differently than if you log on with your phone on a weekday night.
Over at the Netflix Tech Blog, they recently broke down the "Continue Watching" row, and how Netflix populates it. Users usually log in and want to either continue watching a show or search for a new show to watch. Netflix tries to guess this based on a few things.
So if Netflix sees you've recently binge-watched part of a series, or are halfway through a movie, it will guess you want to pick up where you left off, and put the "Continue Watching" row up higher. They call that "continuation mode."
If you've just finished a show, or haven't watched in awhile, it might guess you want to find new things to watch – the "Continue Watching" row gets bumped down in favor of recommendations. They call that "discovery mode."
How and when you watch is also taken into account.
So if you always watch Gilmore Girls at 10 p.m. on weekdays from your tablet, when you open Netflix on your tablet around 10 p.m., the service will prioritize Gilmore Girls. If you usually watch The Walking Dead from your Chromecast, when you log on that way, it'll probably put The Walking Dead above Gilmore Girls.
Bottom line, check out this ambitious statement from the blog post:
"The ultimate goal of our recommendation system is to know the exact perfect show for the member and just start playing it when they open Netflix."