Netflix's TV look gets a face-lift two years in the making

With a major modernization, the streaming-video site now sports the same look across smart TVs, Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, nearly all the TV formats. Except Apple TV.

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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Netflix has already recast itself as the Internet's leading television network. Wednesday, it overhauled how its service looks and behaves on actual TVs.

Chris Jaffe, vice president of product innovation from Netflix, said the process was a two-year effort that makes users think there is more, better content available to them. It also has subscribers watching more.

A new user interface was created specifically for the big screen; it's heavier on images and draws in more informative descriptions and personalized details about why Netflix is suggesting a particular title. For the first time, the new TV experience is rolling out simultaneously across multiple devices that deliver Netflix to a TV screen, which account for the majority of all Netflix viewing hours.

The company also consolidated the coding behind the TV service. Previously each device had its own tailored app, which meant features took longer to roll out across devices. For example, Netflix Kids, a children-specific portal to watching videos, still isn't available to Roku users for this reason. The old system also wasted Netflix resources on re-creating the same feature multiple times, rather than coming up with fresh additions for all.

The new infrastructure is also designed to work just as well on low-powered set-top boxes as high-end game consoles.

The only exception is Apple TV, which in keeping with Apple's rigid standards for uniformity across its universe of devices, doesn't allow app developers to deviate far from the interface standards its sets.

Netflix streams billions of hours of video to its customers -- 5 billion hours were watched in the last three-month quarter alone -- and most of the viewing is on televisions.

Jaffe said the company already rolled out the new interfaces quietly to a few hundred thousand users in April. From those members, Netflix knows the new format has people watching more video and saying Netflix is cleaner and simpler.

The new Netflix television experiences will be available to all members globally within two weeks. Supported devices include PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Roku 3, newer smart TVs, and recent Blu-ray players. Additional devices, including older Roku boxes, will be added over the coming months. Newer TiVo boxes will be added in early 2014.

The Xbox One, which like Apple TV has a specific look that remains consistent across apps, will not embrace the new Netflix presentation.

Updated at 8:16 a.m. PT: with more details on devices receiving or rejecting the new interface.