New Netflix TV Look Clears Out the Clutter
Netflix has refreshed its user interface for game consoles, smart TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players, striving toward a unified user experience across all devices.
The company, which has more than 40 million subscribers, created the new look specifically for larger screens. The interface presents browsers with three large images for each movie and TV show, along with a snappy description and remarks on why Netflix is suggesting it to you. The recommendation can be based on your viewing history, tastes or social network.
When you select a specific title, Netflix displays more information about the story line and cast. TV titles have images and synopses for each episode.
More Visual Layout
Search is upgraded, with a more visual layout and results for actors and directors as well as titles. The kids section has been redesigned too, with a blue background and a "kids" label to let parents see at a glance that their children are using the part of Netflix that's appropriate for them. The update brings the kids section to Roku and some Smart TVs that previously did not offer the kids experience.
Additionally, the update brings Netflix profiles to all connected devices, adds voice support on Xbox 360, and offers pointer-based navigation for compatible smart TVs. The new UI also revamps the post-play feature, which automatically starts the next episode of a TV show or gives recommendations after viewing a movie.
This marks the first time Netflix has simultaneously rolled out a new user interface to multiple devices that provide the service on TV screens -- which the company claims account for the vast majority of its billion-plus hours of streamed content each month.
New Software Platform
Key to Netflix's ability to launch the interface for multiple devices at the same time is a new software platform. Until now, each device -- from low-end set-top boxes to powerful consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 -- has had its own dedicated Netflix experience. That meant it took the company longer to roll out new features across multiple devices.
Netflix spent more than 18 months developing the interface through design iteration and testing, it said.
Glued to Screens
The new interface appears to be geared toward keeping customers glued to their screens and watching hour after hour of content. Netflix is already no slouch in that regard. The service delivers a billion-plus hours monthly, accounting for 31.6 percent of all downstream North American fixed network data traffic during peak hours, according to a Sandvine Internet report released this week.
"Its principal aim is to better match its library of video content with what it thinks its viewers want to watch," Greg Scoblete, analyst for Digital Tech Consulting, told the E-Commerce Times. "The new UI's goal is to display new, original or recommended videos in a more engaging fashion -- the look is cleaner with larger photos. It also wants to unify its interface across TV-connected devices so that the experience you get on a Roku is similar to the one you get on an Xbox.
"The whole reason to have a new interface is for two things: Make it easier to use and easier to find content. Those are really the only two reasons," Dan Rayburn, executive vice president of Streamingmedia.com and a principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, told the E-Commerce Times.
It is not yet clear if or how the update will impact Netflix's ambitions to affirm its position as the dominant player in the premium streaming video market ahead of HBO and Hulu.
"Anything that leads to subscriber growth furthers Netflix's ambitions and a clean, modern and easy-to-use interface certainly doesn't hurt," Scoblete noted. "Netflix will stand and fall on its content library and quality of service, but it does help. To the extent that the new interface is able to drive more viewers to their original programming, it does offer them some added credibility as original content providers."
The new Netflix TV interface launched Wednesday and will reach all compatible devices over the next two weeks. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Roku 3, as well as newer smart TVs and Blu-ray players. Other devices, such as older Roku boxes, will get the new Netflix user experience at a later time.