A shared viewing mode is available on Disney+. Amazon Prime Video and Hulu offer similar services. In the Google Play store, there’s even a “Netflix Party” Chrome plugin. So, why is Netflix refusing to make the feature available?
Your role as a product leader is to please customers in unique, margin-boosting ways. A Netflix Party feature appears to incorporate all three features on the surface:
Delight. It makes sense to allow members to watch the same TV episode or movie at the same time during COVID19, when we all seek interaction. Allowing them to talk about the movie, heckle each other, and share notes sounds like a lot of fun.
It’s difficult to imitate. Other companies would struggle to implement capabilities like this because of Netflix’s APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). However, a network effect is stronger than the hard-to-copy effect. You’re less likely to quit and abandon your friends if you engage with them on Netflix.
A proof of concept is provided by the Netflix Party Chrome extension, which was created by a small team of engineers who are not linked with Netflix. According to their Patreon website, the Chrome extension has been utilised by one million Netflix customers, with more than 10 million downloads from the Google Play Store. (It took that long for the Netflix lawyers to notice the crew, so they renamed themselves Teleparty!)
So, why hasn’t Netflix made the feature available? Here’s a rundown of Netflix’s social media failures:
Netflix debuted a “Party” function for Xbox in 2008. The feature was terminated in 2010 when only 5% of Xbox members used it at its height.
Netflix subscribers could share movie suggestions with their friends using the “Friends” function. In 2010, the feature “Friends” was discontinued because barely 5% of users used it. The issue is that your pals have bad taste in movies, and you don’t want your friends to know about all of your vices. Anyone up for some “Indian Matchmaking”? “Are you selling Sunset?” “Are you the Cake Boss?”
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you think Netflix Watch Party is a great concept — you’d DEFINITELY utilise it — but this is a different time and environment, with people so isolated due to COVID19. You, on the other hand, are a weirdo. Ordinary folks don’t read Medium postings — at least not yet! And Netflix has always aimed to offer a user-friendly experience that everyone can enjoy, not just Silicon Valley geeks and LA movie aficionados.