Netflix letting some subscribers watch shows and movies before release — what we know

Man watching Netflix on TV
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

What would you do if you could watch Netflix shows and movies before they get released to the public? According to Variety, Netflix has been reaching out to select subscribers and giving them the opportunity to provide feedback on upcoming Netflix content.

Variety managed to obtain part of an email sent out to prospective subscribers. It looks like Netflix is offering them the opportunity to watch “several upcoming movies and series over the course of about six months”. Users will fill out a feedback survey after each piece of content, which may have an impact on the final result.

That survey includes viewers saying what they liked, what they didn’t, how they’d improve the final cut, and whether they’d recommend it to family and friends.

“We at Netflix are building a community of members to view and give feedback on upcoming movies and series,” the email says, “and we’d like to know if you’re interested in being a part of it. It’s simple, but an incredibly important part of creating best-in-class content for you and Netflix members all around the world.”

Netflix confirmed that subscribers were taking part in feedback panels, but only in the U.S.

The idea of screening content to subscribers prior to release is nothing new. The film industry is well known for utilizing test audiences to provide feedback on upcoming movies. Depending on how the test audience reacts, there may be changes to a film’s edit or even reshoots.

Goodfellas, which is now a classic gangster movie, had to be extensively recut after audiences reportedly left over the gratuitous violence in the original cut. You can also thank test audiences for the fact Spock and Loki didn’t permanently die in The Wrath of Khan and Thor: The Dark World.

Netflix itself has notably tested incoming features with subsets of its audience, with the Top 10 row and ‘Play Something’ shuffle feature being some of the best known examples. So it’s no surprise that it would be testing the actual content with audiences as well.

It’s not clear how users can try to take part in feedback panels, since Variety’s report suggests Netflix will come to you. Apparently Netflix selects subscribers who “represent a range of perspectives," and makes them sign a nondisclosure agreement.

It isn’t clear how much of a stake Netflix has in this process, especially after announcing it had no plans to “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful." While that is clearly a response to staff outcry over Dave Chapelle’s controversial comedy specials, it suggests the streaming company isn’t likely to limit the artistic freedom of other content creators. Though I imagine the company feels audience opinion is a lot more important than that of its staff.

It's not clear whether these test screenings will have any impact on the ongoing string of Netflix cancelations. In fact, Netflix just cancelled four shows before they even got made. But it's good to know that the streamer is taking more feedback from its customers at a time it's raising prices and cracking down on password sharing

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.