Netflix launches user profiles for individual recommendations

August 1, 2013: 10:54 AM ET
netflix profiles
Timmy's love of watching cartoons on Netflic won't ruin his parents' Netflix recommendations anymore.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Netflix is launching a tool on Thursday that will ensure your spouse's 'Kardashians' binge will no longer wreck your list of recommendations for cerebral French films with a strong female lead.

The new "Profiles" feature will let each Netflix account include up to five separate user profiles. The feature effectively sections off viewing habits for each household member, giving each person individualized suggestions and the ability to add their own favorite titles.

Eddy Wu, Netflix's director of product innovation, told CNNMoney it's long been obvious to the company that a father wouldn't want to watch "Dora the Explorer" simply because his two-year-old watched "SpongeBob Squarepants."

Wu noted that Netflix had been toying with different ways to solve that problem, but the company was resistant to introduce a feature that added an extra step for users.

"We tried a few things that didn't involve explicitly making profiles, because we didn't want to make it too complex for people," Wu said.

Ultimately, Netflix decided this setup was fairly seamless. In addition to profiles for family members, the new feature also lets users create profiles around themes of their choosing, like "Date Night."

The profiles feature will also let users link their Facebook (FB) accounts, in order to share their individual viewing history and get recommendations from friends. Netflix added Facebook integration in March after lobbying Congress to change an old video law.

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For now, profiles will be available on Netflix's website, the Sony (SNE) PlayStation 3, the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360, Apple (AAPL) iOS devices and most smart TVs. Google (GOOG) Android devices won't support Netflix (NFLX) profiles until the end of the fall, Wu said.

The profiles feature may not be as bold a change as the company's recent ramp-up of original programming, but Neil Hunt, Netflix's chief product officer, said profiles are another way to stand out in the crowded streaming-video space.

The company said focus-group testing showed that profiles generate more viewing and more engagement.

"We like to play around with more ways to move forward," Hunt said.


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