Peter Kafka

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Netflix Gives Most, but Not All, of Its TV Viewers a New Look

Netflix ScreenshotNetflix is giving itself a makeover.

The video service has overhauled the presentation most subscribers see when they watch Netflix on TV, using devices like Roku boxes, Sony’s PlayStation consoles, smart TVs and Blu-ray players.

The new look is supposed to debut today, but you can get a sense of what it looks like by checking out the screenshot above, or the embedded video at the bottom of the post.

Or you can trust my description: Netflix is adding more images, and information, to its screens. It’s all designed to make you more likely to click on a video and watch it.

The goal, of course, is to get you to watch more Netflix, so you’ll be more likely to keep paying $8 a month for the service.

Netflix executives are proud of the facelift, which they described as the “biggest change to the Netflix experience in our history.”

What’s at least as interesting to an outsider, though, are the reasons you won’t see the new look on all the devices that connect Netflix to TVs.

In some cases, there’s a technical limitation, though the Netflix folks said they’ve worked hard to design software that’s lightweight enough to work on relatively primitive devices.

But the reason Netflix can’t overhaul its look for other devices — like Apple’s Apple TVs, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One — is because the device manufacturers have specific rules about the way app developers can present their stuff on their devices.

Apple, for instance, requires all of its developers to hew to a grid design, which is why HBO’s app, ESPN’s app and Netflix’s app all basically look and feel the same. The new Xbox console plays off the “live tiles” Microsoft is using on Windows 8 and its mobile OS.

The Netflix guys are too polite to talk about any of that, of course. But it’s clear they’d like the ability to control their look on every device they show up on. It won’t happen any time soon.


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