Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Please Don’t Tell Me What You’re Watching on Netflix

Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” system means you end up telling your friends about everything you’re doing, whether they want to know or not. Netflix wants to tie this into its streaming service, but can’t, because of a U.S. privacy law.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who is also a Facebook board member, is backing a bill that would change the law. Right now, it’s tied up in the Senate.

But if it passes, don’t expect Netflix subscribers to thank him. They have absolutely no desire to learn what their Facebook pals are watching.

That’s the no-doubt-about-it conclusion from a new survey commissioned by Citi analyst Mark Mahaney: He finds that seven out of 10 Netflix subs are “not at all interested” in “seeing what [their] FB friends have watched on Netflix.”

Here’s what that looks like in a bar chart:

As Mahaney notes, it’s possible that the folks he surveyed just don’t know how cool it will be to learn that their pals are watching “Mad Men” or “Dora the Explorer” or whatever. And that if it becomes possible, they’ll change their mind.

But it’s worth noting that Hulu has synced up with Facebook (I’ve never really understood why it’s not constrained by the same law, but whatever). And so far I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Facebook pal tell me what they’re watching there.

There are a bunch of ways to explain that nonscientific observation away. But my gut is that people are actually sort of private about a lot of their video viewing, and don’t want to automatically share it with the Web.

It’s not like Spotify, where even though you may not be proud that you were listening to .38 Special, you don’t really care if anyone knows.

Yes, lots of people will tell you — on Facebook or Twitter, or maybe even one of those TV check-in services — about a specific show they’re watching.* But that’s a lot different from a deluge, which is what Facebook seems to want.

And Netflix users, at least, want no part of it.

*I just finished season 4 of “Breaking Bad” this weekend. So great. I literally yelped in delight at the end of the last five or six episodes.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Everett Collection)

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