This is a big reason why I canceled Netflix — and they need to fix it now

Netflix logo on a TV screen next to a vase of flowers
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When I canceled Netflix, I mostly kicked it away because of a lack of pressing new programming. But earlier this week, I heard podcaster Merlin Mann declare that that Netflix "wants [him] to be somebody different than who" he is.

The second I heard that, I realized a significant reason why I canceled Netflix this year that I had never even thought of. Netflix, as you may find when you use it, really cares about promoting shows that you may have have zero interest in. I'm trying to see things with an open mind these days (heck, I started Yellowstone, which I thought I'd never do), but Netflix often seems to swing and miss. 

And so I took a trip back to my parents' Netflix account, to look at my profile page that I don't use anymore (except for work when we needed images of how to adjust subtitles as you watch Netflix). From the moment I opened Netflix, I was reminded that Netflix's priorities are so wildly different from my own — and that must have been an underlying reason why I walked away. 

Listen, I know Netflix delivers enough content to be one of the best streaming services, and it does so by appealing to a wide audience of people. But I just don't understand why it can't be better at promoting its own programming in its own apps.

No, Netflix, I don't care about your reality TV

The Netflix reality series Outlast is promoted at the top of the Netflix home screen, the image features men and women in outdoors-wear.

(Image credit: Netflix)

And to my complete lack-of-surprise, Netflix is pushing some weird reality TV show it should know I will not watch. Netflix, for all of its infinite data it has from my years of usage, pushed the reality TV series Outlast at me. 

To my complete lack-of-surprise, Netflix is pushing some weird reality TV show it should know I will not watch

Outlast, if you don't know, is a competition reality series where 16 "survivalists" try their best to ... outlast ... in the Alaskan wild. While I may have watched Squid Game, I can't imagine anything from my history that suggests this is a good idea.

(L to R) Lockwood (Cameron Chapman), Lucy (Ruby Stokes) & George (Ali Hadji-Heshmati) fight off a ghost in Lockwood & Co.

(Image credit: Netflix)

In all fairness, Netflix doesn't get this so utterly wrong all of the time. Later that same day I went back and saw the supernatural YA series Lockwood & Co. in the main 'featured' slot. Not that I have any interest in getting my own Netflix account again (I'm ready to surrender to the big Netflix password-sharing crackdown) to watch it. 

But for every single time they've asked me to watch some wild reality TV show, a true crime documentary or something else that my profile proves I have no interest in, I've felt my general interest in Netflix dwindle. 

Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp in That '90s Show

(Image credit: Netflix)

And when I do trust Netflix? Right before I canceled I gave That '90s Show a spin, and one episode was more than enough for me to realize it's not my thing.

I don't know why Netflix thinks I want anime, either

A big graphic for the anime series Vinland Saga appears on the TV tab of the Netflix home screen, and it has a blonde man with a weary expression.

(Image credit: Netflix)

While I may have sampled the errant anime series overtime, it's far from the main thing I watch on Netflix. And so I was — again — confused when I tapped into the TV section and saw something called Vinland Saga promoted. The series' official description, "Young Thorfinn longs for an adventure far from his home in Iceland. One day, his father saves the life of a runaway slave found buried in the snow," did nothing for me.

Yes, it sounds like more than your average anime, but I'm still curious as to why Netflix is trying to push that show at me, and not its new Spanish-language wrestling drama Against The Ropes. Netflix should know that I binge-watched GLOW (which I'm still angry they canceled), and even watched the odd Netflix Original film Main Event. Do Netflix chiefs assume I'm going to find the stuff I want, and therefore spend its time hawking things I wouldn't choose for myself? 

How in this age of targeted ads does that happen?

Outlook: Netflix needs to be better at brand loyalty

A TV with the netflix logo and show art is on fire

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Netflix/Shutterstock)

With 2022's price hike in the rear view, and the Netflix password-sharing crackdown still expanding, Netflix is still in a moment where it could stand to make people feel better about what it does.

This isn't unique. Hulu promoted the reality show Farmer Wants A Wife to me recently, and I'm still wondering why. My Hulu account is primarily for the sitcom Abbott Elementary, and originals such as The Bear and Fleishman Is In Trouble.

The hulu home screen begins with a graphic for Farmer Wants a Wife, and then Live Now

(Image credit: Hulu)

For mending these fences, why not start where we, the subscribers, and Netflix, first meet up? The home screen is Netflix's consistently first chance to renew the faith of its subscribers.

As for why it doesn't? There's an easy theory based on two pretty obvious truths. Netflix is trying to make all kinds of TV, and it's trying to get you to always watch its new shows. The more shows you add to your Netflix watch list, the more reasons you have to not cancel.

Me? I'm just looking for a reason to come back. At some point, I'm going to do that for The Crown, to be caught up for the final season. For now? Netflix, help me want to want you. You've seen my history, you know what to do (give us GLOW season 4).

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.