Netflix launches new and improved user profiles

No more mixed recommendations for Sesame Street and Breaking Bad

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
August 1, 2013
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I’m the oldest of 11 kids and I moved out long before Netflix became a thing, but from what I’ve gleaned from the siblings who still live at home…it’s all a big mess. Anime is mixed up with quirky cult comedy TV favorites, my mother’s love of British romance is complicating my brother’s penchant for all things Spongebob. It’s chaos.

But not anymore, says Netflix! The company announced Thursday that user profiles are rolling out to all Netflix subscribers and their families/roommates/new boyfriends/moocher friends over the next two weeks.

Each profile will connect with a person’s Facebook account, which opens the door to recommendations based on your friends’ interests and the possibility of sharing/rating the title you just watched. The profiles will be included at no extra cost, but each account can only have up to five profiles. That’s two short of what my siblings need. So, Sophie’s choice moment: who will get a profile and who won’t?

"We continually innovate and are proud to deliver an even better, more personal Netflix experience," said Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt, in a statement. "Now everyone in your home can have their own Netflix experience, built around the TV shows and movies they enjoy. No longer will your Netflix suggestions be mixed up with those of your kids, a significant other, roommates, or house guests."

Netflix had individual user profiles once upon a time, when it was primarily a DVD-by-mail service. But as DVD subscriptions began to dwindle, Netflix canned the profiles and never implemented them for streaming, until now.

So why should Netflix care whether you get the right recommendations? Because some 75% of the hours streamed on Netflix come from personalized recommendations. If the personalization algorithms get muddled by a mix of Curious George, Breaking Bad, and 30 Rock (aka the best show ever), personalization gets compromised and subscribers become less likely to watch. To improve personalization accuracy, Netflix hosted a contest in 2009 with a $1 million prize for whoever could come up with the most accurate way to predict what a person will like based on their content preferences.

New members can add profiles for each of their family members when they sign up, and existing members can add profiles on the website or via their PlayStation 3. And you’ll be able to access your profile on most devices that support Netflix, including the website, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, and most smart TVs. Support for additional devices will be added over the coming months. 


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