How Netflix Comes Up With Its Oddly Specific Category Names

After watching a lot of Mad Men, Robin Runyan, 39, started noticing a common thread on her Netflix homepage: suggestions for "emotional" movies.
These categories caught her eye, and led her to think twice about her viewing habits. "I thought it was hilarious, especially the 'Dark Scandinavian Movies,'" Runyan told Refinery29 by email. "But it also made me realize that I should maybe watch a sitcom once in a while."
Overly descriptive and, at times, epically long movie categories have become part of Netflix's DNA. While you've probably noticed the standard categories (ones like "TV Action & Adventure" and "New Releases"), you've likely also seen some that appear oddly specific. For example, binge-watching crime shows might lead to suggested categories pragmatically named "Exciting Criminal Investigation TV Shows" or "Binge-worthy TV Thrillers."
Those category names barely scratch the surface of Netflix's apparent obsession with adjectives. On Twitter, users have called attention to weirder categories, including "Visually-Striking Cerebral Experimental Movies," "Gory Movies Featuring A Strong Female Lead," and "Critically Acclaimed Dysfunctional Family Dramas." Streaming fans have taken to making up names for their own desired groupings:
In addition to inspiring humorous tweets, there's also a certain mystique around who comes up with these categories in the first place.
In order to answer this question, you first have to understand how Netflix recommends movies and shows. Like Facebook and Instagram, there's an algorithm to suggest content it thinks users will like based on information such as your viewing history and whether you've watched a certain movie to the end or cut out halfway.
But unlike Instagram and Facebook, which provide content in an endless scrollable feed, Netflix groups its movies and shows into what are referred to as "taste clusters." Taste clusters are formed by finding patterns among users with similar viewing habits. So if you see a suggestion, it's probably there because another person who watched the same shows you do watches this other show you haven't seen yet.
The algorithm is only part of the process, though. After it identifies taste clusters, the taggers come in. Taggers are employees with the dream job of watching TV for a living. These entertainment experts name each taste cluster by finding the common descriptive thread that runs through every movie or TV show in that category. Sometimes, this is simple ("Crime TV Shows"), but other times, it requires a more nuanced take ("Visually-Striking Cerebral Experimental Movies"), especially as Netflix's library of original shows and number of taste clusters continue to expand. There were 1,300 groupings as of May 2017, and that's one of the reasons why the names have become so specific.
As for names that appear overly long with three or even four adjectives, a Netflix spokesperson explained that the company constantly tests various lengths and formats in an effort to be both "fun and informative."
Still, at a certain point, Netflix may need to cut back on the categories and go back to basics. Sometimes, as Anna Akbari, PhD, noted last week, it just becomes too specific. Though she managed to come up with one category she's interested in and hasn't seen yet:
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