Netflix isn’t big on virtual reality for the obvious reasons

Virtual realty has too few users, and isn’t conducive to binge-watching.

While some streaming services such as Hulu and YouTube are making bets on virtual reality video, Netflix is hanging back.

Netflix executives told VentureBeat that there are two main reasons the company isn’t investing in VR content right now. The first, according to Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, is that it’s not big enough.

Netflix is currently available in 190 countries, with 80 million users, all watching essentially the same type of video. It’s unclear how many people are enjoying VR, but even Google’s cheap Cardboard headsets have shipped only 5 million units, many of which were given away. It’s a comparatively small and entirely separate audience.

The bigger obstacle, however, is the VR experience itself, which at least for 360-degree video involves a more active role of looking around every scene. “You’re exhausted after 20 minutes,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said. “We are more focused on a lean-back, relaxing experience.”

That’s not to say Netflix is avoiding VR entirely. Samsung’s Gear VR headset offers an official Netflix app, though it’s merely a virtual living room with a big-screen TV. You can’t change the environment—for instance, to a movie theater—or share the virtual space with friends. Clearly there’s room to expand the concept of 2D video in virtual reality.

During the CES trade show in January, Hastings said the company was experimenting with VR, but had no concrete plans. “It’s a very early phase, so we’re gonna learn some things with no commitment other than to have the Netflix TV shows and movies be available within the headsets,” Hastings said, according to VentureBeat.

Why this matters: The comments from Netflix come as other video services take a more aggressive approach to virtual reality. Hulu’s Gear VR app, for instance, includes a bunch of exclusive 360-degree video, and YouTube is reportedly considering live 360-degree video to complement its on-demand selection. Amazon is staffing up to build VR content as well. Still, Netflix has a point: No one’s figured out how to make VR-specific video that gels with the kind of binge-watching that Netflix encourages.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags netflix

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?