Without warning and little explanation, Netflix has removed the easiest way to get your shows from one Apple device to another: AirPlay.
Netflix confirmed to The edge which activated the wireless casting feature last week, due to what is called a “technical limitation.” But it is not the kind of technical limitation that you would think.
You see, Apple recently partnered with most of the major TV brands to allow AirPlay 2 to send shows directly to their 2019 TVs with a firmware update later this year, but a Netflix spokesperson tells me that AirPlay 2 has no identifiers. Digital to enable Netflix distinguishes those TVs, so the company cannot certify that its users are getting the best Netflix experience when they release those new sets.
So now, it’s tossing the baby with the bath water and pulling the plug on AirPlay, period. “We can’t tell which device is which, we can’t really certify devices… so we had to shut down support,” says a Netflix spokesperson.
Here is the official statement from the company:
We want to make sure our members have a great Netflix experience on whatever device they use. With AirPlay compatibility with third-party devices, there is no way we can distinguish between devices (what is an Apple TV and what is not) or certify these experiences. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue Netflix AirPlay support to ensure our quality standard for viewing is met. Members can continue to access Netflix in the built-in app on Apple TV and other devices.
As seen by MacRumors Earlier today, the company’s official support page now includes this sentence: “Airplay is no longer compatible with Netflix due to technical limitations.”
However, it is a bit strange and misleading, because we are not talking about a situation where the technology does not work; apparently it doesn’t seem as nice as Netflix wanted it to be, and Netflix, Apple, and TV makers can. Don’t bother to fix it.
Perhaps Netflix was not ready for a new wave of AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and cannot justify spending the technical resources to update its AirPlay implementation to give them adequate support. Maybe it’s Apple or Samsung, LG, Vizio and company who can’t justify the expense to fix the “limitation”. Maybe Netflix will even reinstate support after things are sorted out, although a spokesperson strongly suggested to me that the ball is on Apple’s court now. Apple declined to comment.
Without a more complete explanation, it’s hard to resist thinking that Netflix is intentionally turning Apple down for some reason, perhaps to build a wall around its subscribers, or perhaps to gain greater bargaining power. (Netflix denies it: “It’s not a business competition game”).
But both Apple and TV makers want to be able to use Netflix to sell users fancy new AirPlay 2-equipped TVs, so it’s in their interest to make things work. Why are they not?
There is a strong potential reason for a dispute between Apple and Netflix: Netflix recently decided that it was not going to be part of Apple’s new TV Plus subscription video service, which prefers to remain a competitor.
Reed Hastings confirms that Netflix will not be part of Apple’s new video hub announced next week. “Apple is a great company. We want people to see our shows on our services.”
– Peter Kafka (@pkafka) March 18, 2019
And it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a cold war between two companies wanting to control the streaming of TV users: Amazon stopped storing Google’s Chromecast for three years, using its own platform anticompetitively, while refining its own TV products. Fire TV rival.
It’s true that most smart TVs already have Netflix built in these days, and there is no shortage of other ways to get that content on your TV screen. Unfortunately for Apple users, one of the most convenient ways now is to shut down.