For how much Netflix shows are discussed online and at the metaphorical water cooler, the service doesn’t have a particularly compelling set of social features.
There’s a bare bones way you can share shows if you are on a mobile device, but Netflix doesn’t even let you share easily to Facebook from a computer anymore (though you can still sign in using Facebook). In short, it’s a social desert.
Music streaming services like Spotify have embraced the social nature of sharing songs or playlists, and following what your friends are listening to. But Netflix has run in the opposite direction, and Netflix CPO Neil Hunt tells Business Insider that’s because subscribers just don’t seem to want to share.
“We have played with social components for a long time,” he says. “We have had three major attempts at it and none of them have worked well, so we’ve retired them all.” He describes the social piece Netflix does have on mobile as a “generic sharing panel.”
Why don’t people like advanced social features on Netflix?
Hunt gives two reasons. First, it’s too much effort to create your own new social network just for sharing Netflix content. That is never going to happen, so Netflix has to piggyback on an existing social network, like Facebook.
But that presents a second problem, which is that users freak out about privacy when Netflix automatically links to anything. “And what seems to be superficial stuff, but what seems to get people exercised, is the idea of some kind of automatic linkage. It’s toxic. We have experimented and explored, and it doesn’t work.”
This means that, for now, those who want advanced social features will have to turn to third parties. Luckily there have been a variety of developers releasing little Netflix add-ons, like those that sync your watching with friends and let you chat, or pop up competitive trivia during shows.
Hunt himself thinks it’s a shame that Netflix users seem so resistant to social features. “It’s unfortunate because I think there’s a lot of value in supplementing the algorithmic suggestions with personal suggestions,” he says. “But it’s not something we’ve been able to solve.”
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