Why we shouldn't need to have two threads for HoC.
But what role does the social viewing experience fit in our own personal enjoyment of a show? Isn't the way we enjoy a show independent of how others feel about it? Not necessarily. Our brains, through what is known as our limbic resonance, may actually rely to a certain extent on the way others feel about what we watch in deciding how we feel about it.
Limbic resonance may be why we have viewing parties for premieres of shows, and why we still enjoy going to movie theaters or catching premieres of films at film festivals like Sundance. Entrepreneur and MIT Media Labs assistant professor Kevin Slavin suggests limbic resonance is the reason behind the emergence of things like the laugh track on sitcoms and the TV-show backchannel chatter on Twitter (so pronounced it's led to its own Nielsen rating).
So perhaps while Netflix's new video format bends to the way we watch, it doesn't bend to the way we watch together. At least not yet. Netflix's challenge -- and perhaps ours too -- will be to reinvent the shared viewing experience.
Netflix has a lot of options. It can use the viewing data it collects, alongside its sophisticated recommendation algorithm, to surface and recommend the programs and chapters of which a viewer's trusted circle of friends is enjoying. Or it can grant access to forums for discussion based on one's completion of a chapter or program. Doing things like allowing my friend to see what chapter I'm on in a given show we're both watching allows them to easily see whether or not they should wait to talk to me about that episode they're dying to talk about.
For Netflix, the question of whether it will develop this critical new structure of shared experience to accompany its new programming -- or else allow its new paradigm to collapse -- remains to be seen. We'll have to stay tuned.
Netflix needs to upgrade its social interface so that when I finish watching the first episode, I can jump right into a discussion only for people who are up to that point. Each episode has its own discussion, no need for spoiler code. They do have user reviews, but the interactive/social aspect is paltry and I don't think I can even access that from the streaming only interface that I see on Roku.
Beyond making customers happy and helping them avoid spoilers, the community aspects of Netflix are valuable because they will continue to be in the business of serving up other people's content for the foreseeable future.
Four or five original series per year isn't what's going to keep people subscribing. That makes Netflix vulnerable, since they don't control the content but if they do control the community they are building, then they are in a much better position, because content producers have to chase the audience wherever it goes.
Also from a larger perspective, the value of content is going to keep going down as it becomes easier to access. Piracy is the extreme example of how technology drives the value of content down to zero. But you can't pirate a community. Netflix should be thinking of ways to turn their customers into their product. If all your friends are yakking on Netflix, then you have to join, too.
Maybe a lofty goal, but better than riding the content train down, down, down. Someday Netflix may be making original series simply to attract more of the kind of audience they want - the opinion leaders who bring in everyone else.