Will the ‘Social Sharing Bill’ Keep Netflix On Top?

2012 was a year of recovery for Netflix; the world’s top streaming service lost a fair number of subscribers after the late-2011 Qwikster debacle and the pricing bump that came along with it. While Netflix made the right move with a backstep and an apology, we argued in a guest post that the damage done to the brand would probably be permanent.

There’s little doubt that the company’s star is dimmer today than it once was–we’ve considered dropping the service and sticking with Hulu and Amazon–but the folks in red still rule the streaming game, and some think that a newly passed bill allowing the company to expand its partnership with Facebook will cement its status as top dog for some time.

Long story short: after ideological opponents leaked Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental record to the press, Congress passed a 1988 law making it harder to share one’s viewing history with the public. Now that the law has been updated, we’ll see some changes to the Netflix model in 2013. But how will they change our perception of the brand?

We’re not sure exactly how the new features will work, but we know users will now have the power to share viewing, renting and rating histories with the public and recommend individual titles to Facebook friends. Company policy will also allow users to “withdraw consent whenever they want on a ‘video-by-video’ basis”, which is good–we want Netflix to give us accurate recommendations, but we don’t want our moms or our friends to know that we watched a Kathy Griffin stand-up special and enjoyed it.

On the one hand, this seems like a positive change–one of the hallmarks of a true friendship is the ability to talk to one another about shared interests and introduce one another to new things.

On the other hand, the idea of seeing every single movie or show watched by anybody who happens to be on our Facebook list is not particularly appealing. It may well lead us to kill our Netflix account for good.

How will this move change the way we see and use Netflix? And how will it affect the efforts of studios trying to get more users to watch their streaming content?