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If You Have to Ask What Netflix Preview Club Is …

Your survey forms await. Photo-Illustration: Netflix

Yes, yes, your eyeballs are glued to the latest season of Love Is Blind, but for many of us, a few episodes a week are not enough. What if you could access a show’s whole season, perhaps even including the finale, before everyone else — before final edits or decisions were made on how the show would be presented on Netflix? That’s the promise of Netflix Preview Club, a top-secret (a.k.a. highly declassified), invite-only (highly NDA’d), free-to-join (if you don’t count the work it involves) cabal of people who can enjoy some of the streamer’s most popular shows and movies before the rest of its 231 million subscribers can. As of December, around 2,000 had signed up, but sources familiar with Netflix’s strategy say the plan is to grow it into the tens of thousands in 2023. Here’s what we know about the club and what we don’t:

How do I sign up for the Netflix Preview Club?

Well, you can’t. The club, which launched in 2021 and has steadily expanded, is invite-only, per Netflix’s help page on the matter, so not just any unwashed Stranger Things–binging pleb will be invited. Moreover, Netflix hasn’t told us what its parameters or qualifications for inclusion are; members are selected “based on things like viewing behavior and how long” they’ve been subscribers.

Do you have to pay more for Netflix Preview Club? I would bribe someone to see the next season of Squid Game.

It doesn’t cost money, but it’s not exactly free. Netflix Preview Club’s stated mission is “to watch and provide feedback on titles before they’re released.” It requires its members to spend some time watching and filling out surveys based on what they liked or didn’t. Netflix doesn’t pay for that time. The incentive is early access and bragging rights.

Say I do become a full-fledged Netflix Preview Club member. How does it work, exactly?

On your Netflix home page, you’ll see a lane of tiles labeled “Preview Content,” featuring select shows or films that haven’t come out yet, available for a limited time. The contents of those TV shows or movies will be protected by an NDA you’ll have had to sign barring you from, say, revealing every spoiler for The Witcher’s wonky timeline before the public’s gotten a chance to experience the insanity firsthand. You’ll also be assigned a personal PIN to keep secret.

Our sources confirmed the tech powering the Netflix Preview Club is the same as other tools that send content made available for members of the press and other early-access subscribers, which makes sense — why build a separate website for screeners when you’ve already got a perfectly good streaming service you can program to specific user accounts? Relatedly, why not gather data from your user base directly from the platform they’re using? Netflix taps Preview Club users for surveys that help the company understand how their content or platform appears to the average user. It’s similar to how Netflix tested stuff like its password-sharing crackdown in foreign countries for months before rolling it out widely. And it isn’t the only streamer doing it: Similar focus groups like Amazon Preview and Hulu Brain Trust are in place at their respective streaming services, and — in general — tech companies with vast user bases tend to A/B test things before they put them out. That’s just what they do.

At least one Redditor claiming to be a member of the Preview Club has called the practice an “​​interesting way to crowdsource the Final Cut” of a film or show — comparing it to the test screenings done by more traditional movie studios. The Wall Street Journal reported in December, for example, that the creators of the climate-change disaster farce Don’t Look Up ultimately edited their film to make it more lighthearted after getting feedback from the Preview Club that it was too dour. Netflix hasn’t commented on how Preview Club notes have influenced other specific edits, but the streamer does theatrical test screenings in addition to getting the online feedback.

Hmmm, you’re a member of the press. Can I borrow your Netflix password?

Sorry, but no.

If You Have to Ask What Netflix Preview Club Is …