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Jason Cother

Netflix allows users to share their viewing history with Facebook friends

by Jason Cother | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

March 13, 2013 | 2 Comments »

netflixBIZMOLOGY — Like many, I have found that some of my favorite movies and television shows were recommended to me by friends and family. Video streaming service Netflix today announced a new feature allowing its US customers to take full advantage of that fact. By the end of this week, all streaming subscribers in the US will be able to link their Netflix and Facebook accounts to see what their friends are watching and to share their own viewing habits with others. Once the application is enabled, users will see new areas on their Netflix account page called “Friends’ Favorites” and “Watched By Your Friends.” This information is automatically shared within Netflix and may be optionally shared on Facebook.

Netflix’s international customers have had this option for about a year and a half, but introduction to the US market was prevented by a 1988 law that banned the sharing of video rental records without written consent from the customer. After years of lobbying, the law was amended in early 2013, paving the way for this launch.

This move is yet another step by Netflix to socialize its user experience, which it hopes will increase customer engagement and customer loyalty and ultimately help it reach its goal of 90 million subscribers (current subscriber number: about 33 million). And what better venue than Facebook with its 1 billion monthly active users; that’s a lot of potential customers who could be exposed to the cool (and not so cool – yes, I admit I have a documentary about New Guinea birds of paradise in my queue) content available via Netflix’s streaming service.

Netflix knows a thing or two about the peaks and valleys of customer loyalty. The company was riding high in early 2011 after finding itself atop Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, but just a few months later, after announcing fee increases and a plan to split its DVD and streaming services, customers were fleeing. Some 800,000 customers cancelled in the third quarter of that year. Netflix has since regained its footing, but it still has a way to go to match the customer loyalty of early 2011.

As with almost anything Facebook-related, privacy is a major concern and one that Netflix is proactively addressing. The company is emphasizing that sharing viewing history on Netflix only is the default option; users must change their settings to enable sharing on Facebook. In addition, specific titles (like, say, bird documentaries) can be manually exempted from the shared listing and the Netflix/Facebook integration may be undone at any time.

It seems like a good move. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like talking about what they’ve been watching with friends, which can generate the type of engagement needed to maintain existing customers and lure new ones. Investors seem to agree as well; shares of Netflix closed at $192 today, up 6%.


Photo by MoneyBlogNewz used under a Creative Commons license.

Awesome. Now my newly-developed fixation on South Korean romantic dramedy TV shows can be proudly announced to all! (I think I just trumped the nerdiness of your bird documentary.)

It’s good to see their stock get such a nice boost from this news. They are still the best game in town, thanks to much leaner content navigation on streaming devices making it easier to get to your library and start playing content. I don’t know how Amazon is doing on its library size, but from the pace I remember from a few months back, they should be getting very close to parity there. Still, the fact that they haven’t been able to bury Netflix by offering such a demonstrably better value (Prime membership is cheaper than annual Netflix streaming costs and you get more shopping benefits with it), is a testament not only to Netflix’s market penetration but its ease of use, IMO.

Streaming services will be accessed more and more from living-room streaming devices rather than PC or mobile devices. I access both on my game consoles — PS3 and Xbox — and Amazon’s video streaming portal is just way too laborious. I only use it if it has something I want to watch that Netflix doesn’t, which is rare.

Neither Amazon nor Netflix do a very good job of improving their streaming device UIs and queue features. That keeps Netflix in the driver’s seat, but also makes that part of the industry stagnant. There’s a lot of room for someone to offer more robust queue/library management (e.g. multiple queues, better queue navigation). If Amazon wakes up and attacks that front, it would be trouble for Netflix, but until then the latter will have the smiley-logoed company playing catch-up.

    Jason Cother

    Great points, Chris. Thanks for your comment. There has a been a lot ink spilled on the Netflix/Amazon rivalry in recent weeks and months, but most articles focus on the battle over content (especially original content). I haven’t seen a lot about usability. It will be interesting to see where it leads.

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