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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags netflix

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

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?