Why Netflix Wants To Keep You Scrolling Not Streaming

Have you ever spent a frustratingly long time browsing Netflix’s vast catalogue of movies and TV shows before settling down to watch something. According to Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath, this is something the streaming giant does on purpose to hook users to its services.

What Happened: Netflix has revolutionized not just how we consume entertainment, but also how we choose what to watch. The paradox of choice, a term popularised by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, is at the heart of Netflix’s design strategy, Kamath explained in a tweet, citing research from FinFloww.

Schwartz highlighted how having too many choices can lead to decision paralysis and decreased satisfaction, and Netflix cleverly uses this to their advantage.

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When Netflix first launched, it offered a catalog of over 1000 movies, presenting an unprecedented array of choices to viewers. However, Netflix discovered that most users did not browse through the entire catalog but jumped from one suggestion to the next, searching for new releases and movie recommendations.

This behavior shift is where Netflix’s design tactics come into play, according to Kamath. The service displays a vast selection of content on the homepage itself, turning the process of choosing what to watch into a quest like a treasure hunt.

This strategy capitalises on “decision fatigue,” where the sheer number of available options can overwhelm the user. Netflix understands that the more options there are, the longer it takes a person to make a decision, which leads to increased browsing time.

On average, a Netflix user spends about 15-20 minutes just browsing for the perfect show, Kamath explained, and this is by design. The service aims to make you invest effort in the selection process, creating a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) with all the choices available. This investment of time and effort paradoxically increases the value of the content you finally select, making it feel like a prize.

Furthermore, Netflix ensures that viewers complete what they start, leveraging the Zeigarnik effect—our tendency to remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones. This compels a user to spend more time on the app, as it always seems like there’s something left unfinished.

So the next time you’re struggling to find something to watch on Netflix, at least you know it’s not just you.

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