Algorithmic Promotion Shouldn’t Be Everything…

Algorithmic Promotion Shouldn’t Be Everything…

As an addendum to my last blog on the lack of physical media for the leading Oscar contender, Everything Everywhere All At Once, I thought it was worth seeing how sharp the streamers have been reacting to yesterday’s Oscar nominations buzz.

The nominations came out on Tuesday lunchtime, UK time, and I’m writing this a little over 24 hours later. The three films with the most nominations were:

Everything Everywhere All At Once – 11 nominations (available on Prime Video UK)
All Quiet on the Western Front – 9 nominations (available on Netflix)
The Banshees of Inisherin – 9 nominations (available on Disney+ UK)

All three of those films are available to stream on three of the biggest streaming services in the UK, and you would imagine that the streamers would each be quite proud of the titles’ success in nominations and might rush to shout about their availability to their customers.

Note that this represents what my profile shows. I realise that this is what is marketed to me, may be bespoke to my user account. But with that proviso let’s go through each of these in turn.

Prime Video

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a licencing deal with Amazon I believe. But they’ve had the film on their service for a few months. I hadn’t added the title to my Watchlist, and Amazon certainly has put the title in the various forms of carousels it has on its homepages over the past few months.

But today I saw no sign of the film on the main carousel or anywhere else on my homepage. Since I do watch a reasonable amount of SF on Amazon (The Expanse, The Peripheral) you might expect them to push the film which I did see (and love) in the cinema but had held off seeing on Prime Video since I was awaiting a feature packed physical release. Something that hasn’t happened.

However, 24 hours after the film became the most nominated title in the 2023 Academy Awards, there was no sign of a promotional ad shouting its Prime Video availability from the rooftops! Even if consumers aren’t actually going to watch the film there’s surely value to those same consumers knowing that Prime Video is home to the leading Oscar contender.

It seems not.


All Quiet on the Western Front is a wholly owned Netflix original, and to be fair, although I’ve added the title to my watchlist, Netflix has pushed the title hard in the past, even though I’ve yet to see it.

9 Academy Award nominations might be the sort of thing that Netflix wants to shout about, but for me Netflix today is keener to promote a Norwegian language WWII title. All Quiet does appear in the Trending section however, which perhaps suggests their Netflix users at least are interested in it.


The Banshees of Inisherin is a film I have watched on Disney+, but Disney seems to use its main homepage carousel in a slightly less algorithmic manner than the other streamers. Banshees is on the carousel despite me having seen it. Certainly it’s third, behind Disney’s new title today Extraordinary and promotion for the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which arrives on the platform next week. But that’s probably the right order since the first two titles will probably be more popular. Furthermore, the Banshees banner does include the words “Academy Awards Nominee” which perhaps underplays the 9 nominations it has, but at least references them.

So of the three, Disney has done much the best job. Now that could be because it has less volume than the other two, so hand-crafted carousels that are much more alike for all consumers make sense. But then they’ve reacted fastest.

There’s a wider failing to my mind about the lack of imagination in marketing from the likes of Netflix and Amazon anyway. Both seem to use quite flat and identical email marketing communications. Netflix’s subject lines are just rubbish:

“Adam, we’ve just added a [film/TV programme/documentary] that you might like”

Then the email will have a picture, a title, three words they’ve tagged it with e.g. “Chilling, ominous, period-piece” for The Pale Blue Eye. A single line, often uninspiring factual description, major cast members, another single line, and a note about what the “primary” language is. A couple of photos and a link to the trailer will make up the rest of the email, along with a list of three other titles.

Every single email I get from Netflix follows this formula.

It can make the smartest and most interesting films and shows seem dull. It’s just so unimaginative, and quite obviously, it’s all algorithmically generated.

Meanwhile, a friend did note that perhaps someone like Amazon is prioritising other programming ahead of Everything Everywhere because that’s simply a licencing deal – and one that is potentially ending soon. Whereas other promotional activity is for wholly owned titles for which Amazon attributes more value internally.

And I sort of understand that. Amazon has Hunters season two in my carousel and that’s a big title for them, although if they examined my profile, they might spot that I didn’t make it to the end of season one. But maybe I’ll be giving it another try so it’s worth the promotional space.

But it’s the rest of the stuff in the carousel that I’m seeing that confuses me. I’m currently getting:

  • A Lionsgate+ ad, which will earn them money. Except, I already subscribe to Lionsgate+ via Amazon so this is a waste of space
  • Black Mafia Family – a Lionsgate+ title I’ve not watched. Maybe this one makes sense?
  • Shotgun Wedding – a romcom with Jennifer Lopez. It does have Jennifer Coolidge, hot from White Lotus in the cast, so maybe I’ll watch it. My profile will show a distinct lack of romcoms in my watch history however. An Amazon Studios release, hence the promotion.
  • Devotion – a Korean war film that I’ve not heard of . It’s a Sony title that got a cinema release in the US but has gone straight to Amazon in the UK.
  • Judy Justice – airing on Amazon’s Freevee platform. Amazon owned, but my watch history will show no love for daytime TV-style fare.
  • The Legends of Vox Machina – an anime show. I’ve not watched any anime on Amazon, but this is Amazon owned, hence the promotion.
  • The Triangle of Sadness – available for home rental. It got a little Oscar love in the nominations, although there’s no mention of the nominations in the ad. This earns Amazon a cut of revenue if I view it, so there’s a financial incentive here. I saw it in the cinema however.
  • Mortal Kombat – a video game adaptation from 2021 that passed me by. It’s licenced from Warners.
  • Bros – available to buy digitally, so a revenue generator for Amazon, shared with distributor Universal. See above for my romcom indifference.
  • Outlander season 6 – Apparently I can watch this on “Starzplay”. Except Starzplay rebranded as Lionsgate+ a few weeks ago. Well done for keeping up with the new branding everyone! My watch history will show that I made two attempts at S1E1 of this back when it started. I didn’t stick with it. Also, that 6th March date is actually 6th March 2022! Somebody needs to update their marketing assets.
  • Hunters season 2 – a big Amazon series that they’ve just released and had previously cancelled, so I assume it wraps up with this season. I didn’t make it through all of season one. However, this is one of the more legitimate promotional decisions.
  • Detective Knight Independence – nope, me neither. It’s a 2023 Bruce Willis film that’s available to buy. Seemingly, it’s the third in the “Detective Knight” trilogy. But my watch history will show no interest (or knowledge) of the previous two. And secondly, these three films seem to have come out within months of one another, and leave a really bad taste in my mouth. Willis seems to have been cajoled into a whole host of low-rent “direct to video” titles whilst he’s suffering from a cognitive illness. This LA Times story from last year is really quite disturbing. His filmography lists him as appearing in seven titles in 2021, and no fewer than twelve films in 2022. There are already two listed for 2023. I simply won’t watch any of these films because I’m not sure he even knows that he made them. It’s all really sad.
  • Pennyworth – A Lionsgate+ title (well done on getting the branding right!) title that I am currently watching. In other words, a waste of space.
  • James May: Our Man in Italy – An Amazon show featuring the likeable former Top Gear presenter. I guess it makes sense to market this show.

A little more thought might provide a better promotional experience.