Netflix has thumbnail selection down to a science

Netflix has the art of choosing thumbnails down to a science, and it detailed that skill for the public today. It rightly points toward the difficulty thumbnails can present — you have a long movie or an even longer television show, and you have to figure out how to best represent that show using a single static image. The company says it has up to 90 seconds to catch someone's attention, but that it takes a mere 13 milliseconds for someone to process a picture, with such artwork being the biggest influencer.

A study Netflix conducted in early 2014 revealed that artwork draws more than 82-percent of browsers' focus while scrolling through the company's library. Viewers spend a mere 1.8 seconds on a title before browsing away — and Netflix found that the better the image they used to catch someone's attention, the more members would engage with and stream content.

Says Netflix, it has since developed a system that allows it to test series of images to determine how they perform. Among its discoveries were that faces in images perform well, but especially so if those faces show "complex emotions." The company guesses this is because complex emotions convey more information and give a better idea about a show's story. Among the images its used for the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the one with the arrow saw the most engagement (above).

Another interesting thing the company learned is that "regional nuances" can be used to drive engagement among varying viewer bases. As shown below, some images perform better in one place than another. As well, Netflix also found that its "members respond to villainous characters surprisingly well" among action and kids shows.

SOURCE: Netflix