By Erick Schonfeld
Netflix is coming to Facebook in a really social way. At Facebook’s F8 developer conference today, Mark Zuckerberg previewed how Facebook members will be able to see what movies or TV shows their friends have been watching on Netflix and click on the movie to watch it right there within Facebook: An overlay player pops up, and you can watch the movie without even leaving the site.
Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings spoke as well, and compared the experiencing of discovering new TV shows and movies on Facebook to Netflix’s own recommendation algorithm. “[What] my friend did trumps the algorithm,” says Hastings.
If you’ve ever clicked on a YouTube video because you saw it in your Facebook News feed, you can imagine how you might click on a Netflix video as well (if you have the time to watch a longer video). But if you live in the U.S., you will have to imagine it, because a privacy law in the U.S related to video viewing data prevents Netflix from turning on the app in the U.S. It will, however, be available immediately in 44 other countries. Hastings noted that the law, the Video Privacy Protection Act passed in 1988, is in the process of being reviewed and might be overturned in the U.S.
Viewing data raises all sorts of privacy concerns. But if Facebook manages the privacy issues correctly, and lets you share only the viewing habits you want to share, this kind of social TV could create an entirely new way to find shows and movies to watch. Already it is becoming common for people to broadcast what they are watching through various apps. Now on Facebook, when you see those status updates, you should be able to watch as well. If only the laws in the U.S. permitted it.
The potential is certainly there. Hastings shared an anecdote in which he asked Zuckerberg to define success for social TV. Zuckerberg shot back, “How big are you going to grow next year?” Hastings told him a number. Success, Zuckerberg told him, is if Netflix grows twice as much as it is expecting (presumably in terms of videos streamed). If Netflix can launch its video sharing app on Facebook in the U.S., it might just get there.