Netflix's Instant Queue is getting an upgrade, and for the first time, subscribers outside the U.S. get the chance to save titles they want to stream later.
The company, an online on-demand video service increasingly styling itself as a pure pay-TV competitor, launched "My List" Wednesday. For U.S. subscribers, it replaces and enhances what the instant streaming queue was -- a place to store titles you already picked to watch.
Netflix's efforts to become a source for edgy original content and the first TV service with hot movies tend to garner the most attention, but Chief Executive Reed Hastings has said that pointed recommendations are what make a subscriber more likely to watch, and therefore less likely to drop the service. "The more people watch, the more they retain [Netflix]," Hastings said last year.
"My List" is row or gallery on Netflix's home screen. Users add titles to the list simply by clicking "add to my list" when viewing details of the show or movie on any device with the service. After several titles are added, Netflix's algorithm sorts the list and presents the titles based on the highest recommendation for the particular user.
"In our tests, most members really appreciated this automated sorting and it was much more useful than the manual sorting capability of the Instant Queue," said Michael Spiegelman, director of product innovation at Netflix, in a blog post. Users can always switch back to manual list management, and if a user never bothers with "My List," it will drop down on his or her Netflix screen out of sight.
My list also has other features, like a special display tag for TV series that have new seasons and a flag if any titles are among those Netflix is about to lose the rights to stream.
The need for honed recommendations contributed to Netflix's development of profiles this month to separate each household member's viewing habits.
As Netflix's streaming user base has grown to nearly 30 million in the U.S., retention grows in importance compared to net new subscribers. With so many people signed up for the service, and so many having already tried it in the past, fewer and fewer people have never used Netflix before. The main challenge as the service evolves is finding ways to keep the ones it has.
That challenge in the U.S. also underscores the importance of international markets for Netflix -- huge markets of people who are completely fresh subscriber prospects. Rolling out the feature internationally, where users lacked the ability to save titles for future viewing before, not only speaks to the company's ambitions outside U.S. borders, but also to how much ground it needs to cover there. Netflix's current strategy is to put all of its domestic profits into international expansion, but its international usership is a fraction of its domestic one.