CharacTour: A novel solution to Netflix’s seemingly endless scroll?

July 23, 2020, 11:43 a.m.

Work. Netflix. Study. Work. Sleep.

All my days blend together into this mechanical routine. From checking my email 500 times a day to keeping Slack permanently open on my desktop, all while studying for the SAT and writing multiple articles with imminent deadlines, I am quickly swept into this robotic work mode. 

In the mix of this careful balance of monotony and chaos, my daily Netflix break comes along, and like a programmed code, I click the red ‘N’ icon that instantly displays a line of colorful profiles where I swiftly select the Salvador Dalí mask from La Casa de Papel. 

Usually, I continue watching a previous show or already have a new show in mind, but today is a different day.  

Glancing over to the clock, I silently note that I have time for one episode (and only one!). 

Time to start scouting for a show! Really, my process of choosing a show to watch takes so long that it can really be compared to scouting an athlete. I, the recruiter,  preview the shows (athletes) on Netflix (school). Then I begin doing my due diligence by googling my prospects. Everything from Rotten Tomatoes to IMDb ratings, all the stats and reviews are thoroughly scoured before I go back to Netflix for a second look. I ultimately decide nothing meets my standards. 

Somedays I make the effort to move on over to Hulu (another school) but, at the moment, intrinsic motivation is low.   

Most times, my scouting process takes the whole forty-five minutes of an episode that I could’ve spent rewatching my trusty favorites — or worse — leaving me with six minutes and twenty seconds, an insufficient time to watch a full episode. Similar to an entrepreneur poised to appear on Shark Tank, I use my scouting skills to look for a solution to a problem not only for me but for others who hope to more productively consume entertainment in their diminishing free time. 

Ten minutes into researching my lightbulb idea, I’ve come across CharacTour: a startup created by Kimberly Foerster that answered all my previous problems. 

There goes me becoming an entrepreneur at sixteen. Maybe someday. 

After looking into the startup, I realize that my forty-five minute google rabbit hole may not have been the right approach. 

Typically, the first step to my TV show recruitment process is looking at the genre and plot, given that they typically attract me first. In my scouting process, I would really dive into the plot because I had believed that it is the main factor of interest in a show. 

Countless times I’ve picked an outwardly worthwhile show with a promising plot, but after a couple of episodes, I notice how little I want to even continue watching.

Through CharacTour’s data, I learned that rather than being drawn to a show’s plot, viewers are drawn more towards its characters. 

“Viewers often become a ‘super fan’ when they make a personal connection to a character at the heart of a story,” said Foerster. 

Foerster and her team have developed a character-based algorithm that matches characters from a variety of shows, movies, books and other types of media to each individual viewer based on a personality quiz they take on the CharacTour website. The quiz helps identify one’s qualities before matching them up with characters of similar qualities. 

Foerster’s data details how people’s affinity for and connection to TV shows are associated with them relating to the characters in the shows. 

“Committing to a book or binging on a TV show is a lot like a date, because you’re committing your time, money and emotions to someone else,” said Foerster, who was first inspired to create CharacTour after recognizing the parallels between dating platforms and picking a show to watch.

After taking CharacTour’s quiz, I matched with many characters from different avenues of media, but one caught my eye the most: Miranda Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy. 

Watching Grey’s Anatomy for its sixteen seasons (and counting), I have always thought I was more of a Meredith Grey — bold, perseverant, and caring — but after seeing that I resembled Bailey the most, it made me notice how I always understood and connected with her actions. She applies her strength, wisdom and tough love to everything she does, and it’s exactly how I lead myself. 

I have always spent a considerable amount of time trying out shows and committing hours of my life to ultimately be disappointed. CharacTour’s quiz, in a lot of ways, has helped me narrow my scouting process and dedicate those forty-five minutes to watching an episode instead of looking unsuccessfully for a subpar show.

Contact Lydia Chen at lydiac123554 ‘at’

Lydia Chen is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.

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