*Update: *After the below story had been published, Netflix released a statement saying the company has concluded the patches feature testing, and it will not go forward with permanently implementing the feature for all users. The original story is as written below.
Whenever people talk about all the money that Netflix is pouring into its original content library, the conversations usually revolve around the high prestige dramas like The Crown, or big budget movies, or the huge contracts that comedians and talk show hosts sign on for. Rarely does the streaming service's slate of kids' shows take over as the focus. But that slate is growing just as quickly as everything else, and Netflix is beta-testing a new "patch" system to get its collectable-seeking younger demographic more interesting in binge-watching.
Similar to how video games will "reward" players with trophies and badges for performing certain acts within the game, Netflix has apparently been testing a new feature that tracks subscribers watching kid-geared shows and grants viewers a patch for their couch potato efforts. Not everyone has access to the new patches, but for those who are part of the test groups, applicable shows such as A Series of Unfortunate Events are identified with red locks. But while a lock visual would seem to indicate that something here can be unlocked, such as extra scenes or other bonus content, no such unlockables exist. The patch is the reward. On top of the enjoyment from watching the shows, of course.
We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectible items for a more interactive experience, adding an element of fun and providing kids something to talk about and share around the titles they love. We learn by testing and this feature may or may not become part of the Netflix experience.
As it goes, one reason why Netflix only uses limited test groups for its newly developed features is because it's all about trial and error, and if the errors outweigh everything else, then only a small number of people were aware of them. This definitely isn't the only new idea that the company's powers-that-be have considered in recent months, and it won't be the last.
Now that Netflix's worldwide audience is bigger than cable is here in the U.S., it makes sense that the company would look to other forms of media for inspiration into how to keep its customers hooked. And while relatively useless patches doesn't automatically sound like the greatest idea ever, it appears that they're quite successful in some cases.
In the world of children's programming, the second batch of Trolls: The Beat Goes On episodes were recently released, and Netflix will be debuting the young adult dramedy Alexa & Katie on March 23, with the Boss Baby animated series coming on April 6. You can head to our 2018 Netflix schedule and our midseason premiere schedule to see what is coming soon to the streaming service and beyond.