SAN FRANCISCO — Netflix is introducing a long-awaited feature that will make it easier for the Internet video service to track and analyze the viewing habits of people sharing the same $8-per-month account.
The tool coming out Thursday can splinter a single Netflix account into up to five different profiles at no additional charge. The Los Gatos, Calif., company is hoping its 37.6 million worldwide subscribers will use the profiles feature because it will help Netflix's recommendation system gain a better understanding of the different tastes of viewers using the same account.
The feature initially will only be available on Netflix's own website and several other viewing outlets, including the iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Apple TV and some smart TV models. It may take up to two weeks before the profiles choice pops up in these options. Profiles should be available on the Wii console before the end of August and on Android devices before the end of the year. Netflix subscribers who use Netflix on Roku's set-top box probably won't be able to use profiles on that device until early next year.
Until now, deciphering the preferences in large households could be tricky because Netflix's system couldn't distinguish between when a 50-year-old dad was watching its Internet video service and when his 10-year-old girl might be viewing under the same account.
"If the kids have been watching a lot of 'Shaun the Sheep,' that doesn't particularly help us help you find the next gritty drama to watch after they have gone to bed," said Neil Hunt, Netflix's chief product officer.