SAN FRANCISCO — A long-awaited coming attraction has finally arrived for Netflix’s U.S. subscribers. They will now be able to automatically see what their Facebook friends have been watching on the Internet video service, as long as they are willing to open a peephole into their viewing habits, too.
The sharing tool announced Wednesday is rolling out 18 months after Netflix Inc. introduced the feature to its international subscribers.
The expansion exposes the feature to a much wider audience because Netflix has 27 million Internet video subscribers in the U.S. versus 6 million customers in more than 50 other countries and territories. Netflix isn’t extending the feature to the 8.2 million subscribers to its steadily shrinking DVD-by-mail rental service.
Netflix withheld the sharing tool in the U.S.to avoid breaking a 1988 law that banned the disclosure of video rental records without a customer’s written consent. After several years of lobbying, the Los Gatos, Calif., company persuaded Congress to revise the law so that subscribers could choose to activate a video-sharing feature.
President Obama signed the amended law in January, clearing the way for Netflix to offer U.S. subscribers another way to find movies and TV shows that may appeal to their tastes. In the process, Netflix hopes to deepen subscriber loyalty and generate positive buzz about the $8-per-month service as the company strives to reach its goal of 90 million customers.