Have you ever searched something on Netflix and it says no results? I was shocked when this happened to me a few weeks ago. Not because they did not have my content, but rather because they missed a fantastic opportunity to show me basically anything.
If I go onto a streaming service and they don’t have a “Mystery / Horror film set on the Moon” that I was dying to see, unless it was one of those nights where I just want to watch something, I might turn off the TV. Then they just lost a DAU or average time per user. Again, I can’t blame them for not having a silly genre like the above, but if a user is 1) looking for a certain type of content 2) tells you what that content is, you can certainly pitch them something similar enough. Even if it has a 0.5% conversion rate, that is time that is an improvement on nothing.
Additionally, as an end user, I will not be upset at Netflix for showing me less related content, as long as I am sure they don’t have what I am looking for. It is also deeply upsetting to feel like there is nothing even remotely similar to what you want to watch. This leaves a negative impression on your mind when it feels like out of the thousands of movies, there is not one they could recommend.
Even if they put out a a title such as “Sorry nothing quite like that, but maybe …”, I think people would look. They could actually just put the movies that need attention or the current cash cows. I imagine it would only create value - how could anyone leave a service because of that?
TLDR: In my opinion a blank search seems like free space to provide basically any content you want and it should be a thing of the past for media services.