Netflix wants to develop a more personal relationship with its subscribers, and that's why the Internet video service is introducing a long-awaited feature that will make it easier for them to track and analyze the viewing habits of people who share the same account.
The new profile feature, which launches today and will become available to all subscribers in the coming weeks, is designed to splinter a single Netflix account into up to five different profiles at no additional charge and target suggestions based on each individual's viewing habits, favorite shows and favorite genres.
"Now everyone in your home can have their own Netflix experience built around the TV shows and movies they enjoy," Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt said in a statement. "No longer will your Netflix suggestions be mixed up with those of your kids, a significant other, roommates or house guests."
"If the kids have been watching a lot of 'Shaun the Sheep,' that doesn't particularly help us help you find the next gritty drama to watch after they have gone to bed," said Hunt.
This tool initially will only be available on Netflix's own website and several other viewing outlets, including the iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Apple TV and some smart TV models. It may take up to two weeks before the profiles choice pops up in these options.
Profiles should be available on the Wii console before the end of August and on Android devices before the end of the year. Netflix subscribers who use Netflix on Roku's set-top box most likely won't be able to use profiles on that device until early next year.
The profiles feature will also let users link their Facebook 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.
Now, "you won't have to be embarrassed by the content your kids are watching showing up in your Facebook feed any longer," Hunt explained, "because it will be confined to their Profile, instead."
Netflix has 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 that "we're fundamentally in the membership happiness business, as opposed to in the TV show business."
"That's what we will generate, more happiness," added Hunt. "Long-term, people who are more engaged tell their friends more enthusiastically, and that will lead to faster growth and a bigger business overall."