Apparently Netflix needs more of our opinions. Except that it's not looking for all of our takes on its shows and movies. A barely-talked about secret Netflix screenings group, called the Netflix Preview Club, is reportedly expanding by at least 400% in the new year, which will give even more Netflix subscribers the chance to see new movies and shows before others.
The latest bit of news on the Netflix Preview Club comes from The Wall Street Journal, which reports that the program will expand from its current set of more than 2,000 members to "include tens of thousands of users around the world," and that this will take place "early next year." The global expansion is noteworthy because Variety noted that Netflix's Preview club had only sourced early feedback within the United States.
And the Journal also notes that Netflix's Academy Award-nominated film Don't Look Up was one of the movies changed per feedback — as feedback declared the film to be too serious and that it needed more comedy.
Essentially, this is Netflix's work-from-home version of focus group testing, a practice that's taken place for movies, TV shows and other products for years. Netflix used similar means to beta-test its shuffle-based Play Something tool, and this preview program gave users access to movies and shows that had yet to debut‚ for early feedback.
The Netflix Preview Club began in May 2021, according to Variety (opens in new tab). Emails sent to subscribers read "We at Netflix are building a community of members to view and give feedback on upcoming movies and series, and we’d like to know if you’re interested in being a part of it."
Can you sign up for the Netflix Preview Club?
In short: we doubt it.
All reporting so far suggests that the Netflix Preview Club is an invite-only situation. The streaming service is selecting potential members on its own — likely using its data from what you watch to figure out if your opinion is helpful, say if you're always watching shows and movies before they get popular — and inviting them privately.
We've reached out to Netflix for further comment.
Analysis: This is Netflix's best hope for the future
Netflix, right now, is in flux. On top of having many of its best shows on breaks, and a seeming reliance on high-profile movies to get it through the winter, it's launched Netflix with ads and is planning to enact the big Netflix password-sharing crackdown we've heard about.
Per my testing, Netflix with ads seems unfinished. And as you might be able to guess, Netflix trying to stop the sharing of accounts is only going to make people more annoyed (meanwhile we're still upset that GLOW got canceled).
While Wednesday is a huge hit, it needs more like Wednesday to fill the gaps, as some of Netflix's biggest shows are ending soon. Stranger Things season 5 marking the end of the road for Hawkins, and The Crown season 6 is the end of Netflix's royals drama.
If, somehow, Netflix can better get its fingers on the pulse of what people want, it will have a better chance of retaining users as the war among the best streaming services only gets tighter. EPIX is set to relaunch as MGM Plus, the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger will make a super-service to give Netflix a stronger rival and that's just the news we know is coming in 2023.