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Netflix accused of targeting black viewers with reconfigured posters and marketing

Black Netflix subscribers have accused the platform of alternating its marketing to target viewers by ethnicity.

The streaming giant has found itself under scrunity after Stacia L Brown, creator of the podcast Hope Chest, put out a call on Twitter asking if other black users had noticed that Netflix recalibrates the posters of movies in-app to make them more appealing to viewers.

Netflix said that the service does not ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so cannot use this information to personalise their individual experience. Instead, it insisted, any tailoring of content is based on a member's viewing history.

However, Brown noted that among the misleading promotions she had been shown was an image of Chiwetel Ejiofor to advertise Love Actually rather than a shot of the predominantly white cast. Ejiofor is the sole black actor in the film.

She also posted a screenshot of how The Good Cop had been promoted to her by Netflix, depicting a poster in which the principal white cast were sidelined in favour of black actors in supporting roles.

A promotion for the movie Like Father, meanwhile, omitted principals Kelsey Grammar and Kristen Bell in favour of black actors Leonard Ouzts and Blaire Brooks.

Tolani Shoneye, host of The Receipts Podcast, told The Guardian: “It’s intrusive. It’s the dark side of marketing. I noticed it a while ago with a Zac Efron film that I’d already seen, but Netflix kept showing me it as a Michael B Jordan movie.

“There was 30 minutes of a romcom I ended up watching last week because I thought it was about the black couple I was shown on the poster. I want to see those stories. They know I want to see those stories. Why don’t they just make more of them?”

Viewers in agreement with Brown and Shoneye have subsequently voiced their anger at being duped into watching TV shows and films they've been led to believe had black lead actors only to be disappointed by token representation in the highlighted content.

In the UK alone, Netflix has increased its viewership by 45% this year at the expense of live TV.