Netflix personalized profiles for streaming service

2:00 PM, Aug 1, 2013   |    comments
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Mike Snider, USA TODAY

Netflix wants to develop a more personal relationship with its millions of subscribers.

To that end, the streaming video service today adds a feature called Profiles that lets different members on the same account get their own specific recommendations and connect to their own Facebook pages.

In testing the feature so far this year, Netflix found that subscribers watched more programming, says Neil Hunt, the company's chief product officer.

Subscribers to the service, which offers unlimited movie and TV show streaming for $7.99 monthly and a separate disc rental service for $7.99 monthly, can now add up to five Profiles to their Netflix accounts. Then, when family members log into the service, they'll see an icon for each Profile. After selecting theirs, they get "an experience personalized for that individual based on (their) viewing history, favorites and favorite genres," Hunt says.

Each member will also have an individual Instant Queue of saved programs to watch and social suggestions based on what Facebook friends have watched and rated recently. Netflix added Facebook connections to the service in March, but a shared account might result in kids' or parents' viewing choices winding up in one another's Facebook feeds.

Now, "you won't have to be embarrassed by the content your kids are watching showing up in your Facebook feed any longer," Hunt says, "because it will be confined to their Profile, instead."

Profiles can also provide quick access to the Netflix Kids section, which houses programming aimed at those ages 12 and under.

Tech news sites such as Cnet.com and TechCrunch reported Tuesday that some Apple TV users came across the Profiles feature while using the service. In addition to the Netflix website and Apple TV, the Profiles feature can be found on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone and most smart TVs. The feature will be coming to Nintendo Wii and Wii U, Hunt says.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter thinks the new feature can "be very effective in keeping subscribers happy." However, ultimately, it's the available content on the service that promotes member retention, he says.

Netflix's stock price has dropped about 7% since the company released its quarterly financials last week. Revenue, net income and customer numbers all rose, but a bit below Wall Street expectations. Streaming subscribers now number about 30 million in the U.S., up from 29.2 million, and 36.3 million globally. The stock closed at $244.48 Wednesday, up 72 cents.

The company had gotten a lot of attention from the 12 Emmy nominations it earned for original shows such as House of Cards and Arrested Development. However, CEO Reed Hastings noted in a post-earnings conference call that "we're fundamentally in the membership happiness business, as opposed to in the TV show business."

That's what the new feature is about, Hunt says. "That's what we will generate, more happiness," he says. "Long-term, people who are more engaged tell their friends more enthusiastically, and that will lead to faster growth and a bigger business overall."

USA TODAY

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