Canadian Netflix Inc. users are finally getting access to a feature many have been requesting since the video streaming service first launched here in 2010: the ability to build a list of movies and TV shows to watch later.
Now the question is, will they use it?
On Wednesday, Netflix began rolling out My List, which replaces a similar feature called Instant Queue that was previously available in the U.S.
A select number of users in Canada, the U.S. and Netflix’s other markets had been testing My List for nearly two years. The long testing period was meant to refine My List as much as possible, given that users liked the idea of Instant Queue but didn’t really use it very much, according to Netflix’s director of product innovation Michael Spiegelman.
Users would populate their queues with tons of titles but didn’t get around to watching most of them.
“What happened is a lot of the titles on the list would become quite stale and you’d end up looking at the same things again and again at the front of the list and as a result, it wasn’t that useful to people and they’d tend to automatically scan by and start looking for other things,” Spiegelman said.
“They wouldn’t go to it first as a place to play titles, they wouldn’t think of it as kind of their go-to location to find something to watch.”
So Netflix took its time to ensure that My List was actually being used by the testers before releasing it widely. Spiegelman said they wanted to see how features are used over the long term.
“We would launch it, test it, see what happens, be able to make adjustments, retest those, see what happens, and then we’re testing and refining things on the algorithm level – which feeds the personalization – as well as the interface level,” he said.
Netflix thinks My List – which can store up to 500 films and TV titles for later viewing – will be more popular than Instant Queue because it now sorts and highlights bookmarked titles based on a user’s viewing history and the service’s recommendation engine.
“We sort the list using that personalization technology and promote the titles to the top of the list that we think will be most relevant to you,” Spiegelman said.
“That kind of adds a lot more dynamism and freshness and personalization to the list than we had before.”
On Netflix.com, My List will also highlight titles that are set to expire soon from the streaming service (that feature may be available on Netflix’s other platforms eventually).
While My List is now available for some users, Netflix says it may take a couple of weeks until the feature is fully rolled out.