Netflix finally acknowledge multiple users

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The most watched 'cable network' in the US yesterday hinted in their first quarter shareholder letter that they will be rolling out mutliple user accounts later this year:

In many households, Netflix is used by different family members, and we tested a “Profiles” feature that separates the activity of each individual.

This would allow households with up to four viewers to simultaneously watch different videos on different devices. More crucially, this allows Netflix to personalise recommendations for each user, rather than batching them up together as currently happens

This is an obvious next step for Netflix, and indeed any service which relies on recommendations as the main discovery mechanism. However, some new use cases which are thrown up as a result of this model, which we’ve had first hand experience of accounting for when designing VOD products.

Shared devices

Devices used by multiple users need a way of determining which user’s version of Netflix to show. The most common mechanism for this is a login screen, but asking users to login to their profile every time, and maybe even enter a password can be painful, particularly on a Smart TV or a console.

Watching together

Not all viewing will be done by users individually. If multiple users watch the same content at the same time on the same device, Netflix will need a way to determine who watched and who didn’t. Otherwise they could end up recommending you the movie you just watched on the TV last night when you next login on your phone.

This could be done retroactively: users could indicate they’ve already seen the film when the above example happens. It could also be done at the time of viewing: their phone could detect that they’re in the same room, or they could log in on their phone and acknowledge they’re watching.

Switching accounts or devices during watching

More of a fringe case perhaps, but a user could feasibly be watching a piece of content in the lounge on a friend's profile, and then decide to finish watching in bed on phone, on their own profile. How should Netflix cope with this scenario, if at all?

Acknowledging multiple users is an obvious improvement for Netflix, but ensuring that their distinctive 'just works' user experience carries over to new usage patterns is not a sinch.

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