The long-awaited Netflix user profiles have made their first appearance ahead of their expected August debut. According to several reports, user profiles are partially available on Apple TV devices with the option appearing upon first launch of the Netflix section. However, users still lack the ability to add or edit profiles at this time, even for those who are now gaining access to the new feature.
Update: Netflix has now further explained that only a few people – those in a test group, who use Apple TV – will see the new profiles. “This is a small part of our overall membership,” a company representative states. “We hope to roll out the feature to all members later this summer.”
Netflix user profiles were announced earlier this year at the E3 conference, and some users had already been added to a limited beta test, which allowed them to use profiles on other devices, like the iPad.
Profiles are basically just user accounts for Netflix, where each family member (or household member sharing a Netflix account, as the case may be) will get his or her own account, complete with a customizable avatar, personalized recommendations and individual viewing history. And for those with children, there will now be parental controls.
The new option is not only useful in terms of the privacy it allows for (no more embarrassing Netflix-watching dates!), it’s also great for parents who do not want their children to have unrestricted access to Netflix’s service. Although the company today offers a kid’s area called “Just for Kids,” it’s only a change to the user interface of the Netflix experience – there’s no password protection to prevent a child from exiting it, nor are there other parental restrictions involved. However, the “Just for Kids” section is designed for Netflix’s youngest users — those who are watching cartoons from PBS or Disney, for example — not the older kids who are more apt to actively seek out content they know their parents would disapprove of them viewing.
The addition of profiles will also help Netflix better compete against Amazon, whose Prime Instant Video has been heavily marketed to parents as an alternative to Netflix. Amazon recently won several children’s TV content deals, including a multi-year deal with Viacom, which sees several well-known Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. titles added to its service — an announcement notable enough for Amazon to place the news in a large ad directly on its homepage at Amazon.com. Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices also stream content from Amazon Instant Video into a kid-friendly tablet experience called Kindle FreeTime, which offers pre-approved content including books, games, movies and TV.
Netflix profiles could also help the company make better content recommendations, as before, suggestions in multi-user households were based on the viewing habits of several users combined, not individuals. The recently added Facebook integration will make better sense as well, as each user would then be able to tie their social-sharing activity to their own viewing behavior, and not, say, that of their children.
According to Netflix, the company is not prepared to confirm the AppleTV reports or provide new information on when we might expect user profiles to be fully live on Apple TV, or other supported devices in Netflix’s lineup, including Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), smart TVs, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles. The company says user profiles have been in testing, and are still expected to launch later this summer.