Joe Maller.com

How Netflix could blow it

Netflix streaming has become my family’s primary means of watching TV shows and movies. We long ago dropped cable TV, and for us, buying shows on iTunes was much cheaper than our monthly cable fees.

Over the summer my daughters asked for a $60 show from iTunes (29 episodes)–still cheaper than a month of cable–but Netflix was streaming it for $9/month. A netflix-capable $130 Blu-Ray player (cheaper now) should pay for itself pretty quickly and there’s no chance of buyer’s remorse over a particularly horrible show.

It all worked really well. Samsung’s Netflix app only showed our instant queue, so we loaded it with shows the kids liked or things we thought they’d be curious about. When they were allowed to watch TV, we could relax knowing they’d be choosing from a pre-screened set of programs.

As I said, it all worked really well…until this past weekend.

Saturday morning our Samsung Blu-Ray player asked to update its firmware. Unfortunately, that included an update to the Netflix app.

If the Netflix app had worked this way when I bought the DVD player, I would have immediately returned it.

There are a ton of things to criticize about the revised Samsung Netflix app, but the most glaring is that display of 4:3 content is broken. Everything which should be 4:3 is stretched wide.

It’s almost 2011, I never want to see a 4:3 image stretched wide again. Ever. If you’re a manufacturer or media company, botching display aspect-ratios sends a clear message that you don’t give a crap about your customers or the content you’re serving. Delivering your only product at the wrong size is absolutely unforgivable. Imagine if this happened with pants.*

Aside from that, the function of the application is abysmal. After the unit finishes starting up, it takes nearly 30 additional seconds to launch the app, the first 6 of which show a completely black screen. Navigation is confusing with multiple buttons having the same effect. Animated state changes are gratuitous, inconsistent, chunky and jarring. It takes 24 seconds to exit the app but only 30 seconds to power-cycle the entire unit.

There is no solution. There are no options to rollback the firmware. Samsung customer support is beyond useless.

So, I ended up buying a new Apple TV and unplugging the Samsung. I trust Apple not to screw this up. Netflix looks great on it and is seamless with the rest of Apple’s entertainment user interface.

The future of Netflix

Netflix dominates the streaming space, no one else is even close. However they seem to be at the mercy of various hardware manufacturer’s internal development teams. That, or just incredibly, stupidly lax about the quality of the applications they’re putting their name on. The lack of basic testing and quality control reflects badly on Samsung, but is much worse for Netflix.

With DVDs, the super-convenient red Netflix mailer became synonymous with their service. Netflix doesn’t own the movie experience, they own the delivery experience. Netflix wraps the movie, we’re only aware of them before and after watching something they brought to us. For the sake of their future, Netflix needs to put as much care into their streaming interfaces as they do with mail delivery. If the streaming apps degrade the experience or are unpleasant to use, customers will go elsewhere.

* pants, bad example?


  • Trewqup

    I just bought the Samsung UN46D6003 model.  I bought primarily for the Internet and Netflix features.  I was horrified to discover that Netflix on all Samsung models is suffering from a flickering, drop to black screen, problem.  Tons of people are complaining about it and nobody is fixing the issue.  Samsung blames Netflix and Netflix blames Samsung.  Either way, the consumers are the ones who lose.  As somebody who bought this TV for 90% Netflix usage, this is a deal breaker.  In addition, I experienced the same sluggishness and mediocrity in the app that you described.  I’m not sure who is to blame for the poor quality but somebody better get to work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kspringhetti Ken Springhetti

    I am having this problem it stinks! I have the Samsung TV and the Samsung Smart Hub Blue Ray Player. It absolutely is unwatchable

  • Ben Esparza

    –Problem History and Symptoms: We have a Samsung Blu Ray Player model
    number BD-E5900 that we bought about a year ago. Everything was working
    fine until about a week ago when it asked us to update the firmware to
    version 001057. We accepted the update and after the update netflix
    started flickering a lot. By flickering I mean it would go to a black
    screen for a second while the sound continued in the background. This
    happened at least once per minute and sometimes many times per minute.
    It was hard to watch a movie on netflix. DVD/Blue Rays worked just fine
    though, no flickering. And the TV (a 50″ LCD TV) worked just fine at
    all other times.

    — Various attempts at fixing problem: I searched for this problem
    online and found that Samsung thought it was a problem with wireless so I
    plugged the DVD player directly to ethernet but the problem still
    happened. We have very fast internet connection and no other devices
    that play netflix (iPad, laptops, etc) ever do this so I was immediately
    suspecious of this theory. Next I tried to reinstall the netflix app
    (version 3.105) but didn’t help. I found a youtube video about this
    problem on a different model Samsung Blue Ray Player (model BD-6900)
    with a comment saying that they changed the setting (Home -> Settings
    -> Display -> Resolution=1080i) and that fixed the problem. I
    tried that and it didn’t work for me. On the same youtube video a
    different comment said they changed the setting (Home -> Settings
    -> Display -> Deep Color = Off) and that fixed the problem. For me
    it did not fix the problem either. For reference, here is a link to the
    youtube video in case it is useful to others: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVKF07bJc3A

    — Problem Solution: Next, just completely guessing, I changed one of
    the other settings of the DVD Player, specifically: FROM: (Samsung DVD
    Player -> Home -> Settings -> Display -> TV aspect ratio =
    16:9 Original) TO: (Samsung DVD Player -> Home -> Settings ->
    Display -> TV aspect ratio = 16:9 Full). This seems to solve the
    problem for us. Now it flickers once in a while but much much less
    frequently and we can now watch netflix on our blu ray player again.