It’s Friday night, and you’ve got a hot date with Netflix and your couch. While you won’’t have to fuss over what to wear (pajamas!) or what to eat (popcorn and wine count as a meal, right?), deciding what to watch is another story.
Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, trying to find the right movie or TV show among the thousands available from the streaming media service can be challenging. I’ve spent many a night combing through Netflix’s catalog, looking for something entertaining to watch, only to come up empty-handed, or settling on a title that sounds half-interesting because I’m sick of searching.
If this sounds like you, too, here are some tips and tricks that can help you get better recommendations from Netflix. I’ve also included some information on lesser-known features of the service, and some outside tools designed to extend the capabilities of Netflix, from including ratings from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to turning your smartphone or tablet into a Netflix remote.
Tell Netflix a little about yourself to get better recommendations.
You like action flicks, so why does Netflix keep suggesting romantic comedies?
There are a number of factors that Netflix takes into consideration when coming up with personalized recommendations — how much of a movie or TV show you watched, what you viewed after the previous selection, and others. But there are a couple of easy things you can do to teach Netflix about yourself, especially when you’re just starting to use the service.
The first is to rate the movies and TV shows that you watch. I’ll admit it — I didn’t start doing this until recently, and I’m not sure why. It only takes a few seconds to click on a star rating, and Netflix can then use that information to make more accurate suggestions based on what you liked or didn’t like.
The second is to fill out the Taste Preferences survey. You can access it by logging into your Netflix account from your computer’s browser, going to Your Account, and then selecting Taste preferences under the Your Profile section.
The survey asks you to rate how often you watch content based on different categories (mood, genre, storylines, etc.). It’s quite an extensive questionnaire, but even filling out a portion of it can help yield better results.
Set up different user profiles.
Another tip for getting better recommendations is to set up different user profiles if you share your Netflix account with other members of your household. After all, your tastes might differ from your significant other or roommate, and while your kids might love “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” you probably don’t want a bunch of cartoons or Disney films taking up your whole feed.
To set up a new profile, log in to your Netflix account from a computer, hover over your name in the top right-hand corner, and select Manage Profiles from the drop-down menu. Click on the plus sign to add a new user. You can also indicate if that user is under the age of 12 years old to restrict the type of content that appears in their profile.
Profiles don’t have to be limited to a person, either. You’re limited to five profiles per account, and you can create them around certain themes, such as family night or date night. Currently you can only create profiles on certain devices (Web, PS3/PS4 and Windows 8 devices), and multiple profiles aren’t supported on some older Android, Roku and smart TV devices.
Get a second opinion. Add IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
Netflix already offers its own member ratings and reviews section, but perhaps you also want to know what the community at IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes thinks of a movie. Well, you can, by installing a free browser extension.
There are multiple free options available, but one I particularly like is Netflix Enhancer for Chrome. Once installed, you can hover over a movie to see how many stars it received at IMDb, as well as the critic and audience ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. There’s also a link to view the movie trailer (if available), which I thought was the most useful feature.
That said, you’ll only be able to see the trailers and IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings when browsing Netflix on your computer, and not on your TV or mobile app.
Use your phone or tablet as a remote control.
If you stream Netflix from your Sony PlayStation 3, you can use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control. You’ll need to have the iOS or Android Netflix app installed on your mobile device, and the latter will have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your PS3.
You can browse through the catalog as usual on your smartphone and tablet, but when you go to make a selection, it will ask you where you want it to play. Select your PS3 from the list, and it should start playing on your TV. You can continue to use your mobile device to pause, skip or rewind, switch episodes and more.
The remote feature also works with recent Smart TV models that support the DIAL protocol, which allows second-screen devices (smartphones and tablets) to discover and launch app on first-screen devices (TVs).
Find out what’s new on Netflix.
Netflix is constantly adding new content to its instant-streaming catalog, but not all of it is highlighted in the New Releases section. For a more comprehensive list, check out sites like Netflix USA and What’s New on Netflix. They both provide listings of new movies and TV shows that were added to the catalog, organized by date.
InstantWatcher is another noteworthy site. It shows you what’s new on Netflix, and also the popular titles from the past 24 hours.
With a little effort on your part and with the help of some extra services, you can get more from your monthly Netflix subscription than just your fix of “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.”