Netflix Unveils New TV-Viewing Experience

9:01 PM PST 11/12/2013 by Hilary Lewis
Netflix's new TV experience

The streaming service has launched a visually richer interface designed to increase the already high amount of time subscribers watch its content on their television sets.

Netflix has already changed the way many people think about watching television. Now the company wants to change the way people watch Netflix on their TV sets.

The streaming service has unveiled a new, visually richer interface for subscribers who watch Netflix on television. The new experience is designed to improve discovery and playback.

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The streaming service also hopes its new design will lead to even more television viewing of its content, which already accounts for the majority of its 5 billion viewing hours last quarter.

"Our members collectively watch more than a billion hours of Netflix a month, most of that is on a TV," Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said in a statement. "This is the biggest change to the Netflix experience on televisions in our history, making it even easier to find something great to watch on Netflix, bringing our members many more hours of Netflix enjoyment on their TVs."

Starting now, subscribers who watch Netflix via various TV devices will see three large, automatically rotating images for every title they select (the first one's provided by the content partner and the second and third are selected by Netflix), accompanied by a short, punchy synopsis about each TV show or movie. Viewers will also be able to easily access recommendation tools like awards won by a particular title, how a movie or TV show relates to what you've already watched and whether your Facebook friends have seen something you're considering.

On the screen for each title, there's a broader synopsis and TV shows feature an image for each episode as well as an episode synopsis and viewing progress bar so you can quickly see how far along you are. Netflix has also made search more visual and predictive and eliminated the red Netflix screen you see after pressing play, making playback smoother and faster. They also made the kids experience more visual, even adding a blue background to that section, so parents walking by can quickly tell that their kids are watching content that's safe for children.

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The new experience will roll out simultaneously across multiple devices that subscribers can use to watch Netflix on television, a first for the company, which previously updated each device separately. The design is delivered by a new software platform that runs efficiently on various devices.

“This new software platform will allow us to innovate even faster and continuously improve the Internet television experience for our members across multiple devices,” Hunt added.

Netflix's new television experience has begun rolling out to subscribers who access the streaming service via the following devices: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and 4, Roku 3 and new Blu-ray players and Smart TVs. Subscribers around the world should all have access to the new experience via these devices within two weeks. Additional devices, including older Roku boxes, will be added over the next few months. The XBox One, however, will contain its own Netflix-designed app, which contains some of the same features. And AppleTV, Wii and WiiU won't get the update because of device-specific limitations.

But several hundred thousand PlayStation 3 users might not notice a change because they've been secretly testing Netflix's new design for six months. In fact, those users have already proven to Netflix that their update will be successful in getting people to watch more of its content on their televisions.

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"It removes the question of whether this will be successful for us. We already know it's a success and we're just thrilled to be able share it with everybody and to share it across all different kinds of devices," Netflix's vp product innovation Chris Jaffe told The Hollywood Reporter at a preview of the new design.

"Because people watch more, they value their subscriptions more and they stick around longer, so we have a very clear connection between the viewing and the value to the business," Jaffe added.

Tech-savvy subscribers who like to watch Netflix online or via its tablet or smartphone apps won't see the new layout. But, it's possible that aspects of the TV experience will be incorporated in future updates for other Netflix products.

"The general thematic notion of being rich and cinematic and stepping out of the way and letting people make this connection with the content is a theme that you can certainly see us explore across various different devices, updating the apps over time," Jaffe said.

As Netflix looks to distribute more original content, their new TV design could make the prospect of watching that on your couch seem even more appealing.

Check out a video demonstration of the Netflix TV viewing experience below.

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