Blog Post

Netflix has big plans for the second screen

Netflix (s NFLX) wants to give users the ability to control their apps on TVs and connected devices with their mobile phones, and the company is looking to roll out second-screen control features for a number of devices soon.

The company quietly rolled out second-screen control for the PS3 (s SNE) a few weeks ago, allowing users to start playback on the game console from their Android(s goog) or iOS(s aapl) handset. “We expect to roll out 2nd screen control on a number of additional devices in the coming months,” a spokesperson told me via email, adding:

“Our overall strategy around second screen control is that Netflix on TV devices is a great viewing experience, but Netflix on mobile devices makes activities like browsing, searching, rating, and social easier. We see our users doing this naturally today and  are trying to support and optimize for that behavior.”

The PS3 second-screen feature was first discovered by a YouTube user, who posted the following video of the experience on the video sharing site (hat tip to Engadget):

Users who want to utilize this second-screen experience need to be logged into the Netflix application on both devices with the same Netflix account, and also have their mobile phone connect to the same Wifi network as the game console.

Netflix’s most recent Android app update already discovers Google TV devices within the same network, but playback doesn’t work yet.

One of the devices that could get Netflix’s second-screen experience next is apparently Google TV. I found out by chance this week that Netflix’s Android app already discovers Google TV devices located within the same network but isn’t able to actually start playback on them yet. Netflix’s spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t support second-screen functionality for Google TV devices “at this time,” but declined to comment further.

It makes a lot of sense for the company to use phones and tablets as remote controls for the TV screen. Netflix’s catalog now consists of roughly 50,000 titles, which is hard to navigate and search on a TV or connected device. Tablets on the other hand in particular make for great programming guides, and the ability to beam a video with one click to the big screen could be a great addition to the company’s apps.

Netflix isn’t the only company looking to take a hint from Apple’s AirPlay. Google has said that it is working on bringing an AirPlay-like experience to YouTube and other Google TV apps.

5 Responses to “Netflix has big plans for the second screen”

  1. Second screen is the new black. We’re going to be seeing more of this as the current players try to keep startups from disrupting the market. We wrote about this here:

    The best part? The second screen isn’t an innovation from Silicon Valley. It is a natural outgrowth of how people want to be entertained. Very interesting stuff.

  2. thenewdanger

    Why do this when a set top box or a TV’s dedicated remote is an exponentially more efficient way of controlling NetFlix? I tested this using my phone to control NetFlix through my PS3. I also have the standard Sony Bluetooth remote. There is no comparison. You can only do a fraction of the functions of the set top box or TV’s remotes using the NetFlix app. Replicating dedicated remotes’ capabilities in an app on a smartphone needs to be completed by the set top box and TV OEMs. Getting excited about one singular service being controlled through counterintuitive means is like taking bottled water for cleaning to a water treatment facility. The solution already exists! It’s the remote that comes with the TV! Until Sony, Samsung, LG, etc develop Android, iOS, Windows Phone apps to control their corresponding set top box or TV with the ability to FULLY control them PLUS the integrated Netflix, Hulu, etc just like the customary included physical remotes, it makes me jump for no more joy than when YouTube released the YouTube remote app. I’m not wasting phone battery life just to watch a show unless I am watching it on the phone. The physical remote “just works.”

  3. Youtube already has an amazing control setup for phones and the PS3.

    Go to on your phone. Pull up the Youtube app on your PS3 and go to the Pair option. Enter the code that the PS3 gives you on your phone. Now enjoy starting Youtube videos on your TV from your phone. You can even browse the youtube site and add other videos to the queue while it is playing videos.