At the beginning of April, Netflix announced a “Netflix Recommended TV” certification program. This was kicked off with some lofty objectives:
The goal of the program is to give people insight into which models meet those needs and deliver a superior smart TV experience. When you’re shopping for a new TV and see the Netflix Recommended TV logo, it means that TV will offer easy access to Internet TV services, faster performance, and new features that enable a next-generation smart TV experience.
If press release material isn’t quite getting you there, they even put out a video:
Sounds Marketingy. What Is It Really?
Peer through the marketing hype around Netflix Recommended TVs, it’s an evaluation of 7 different criteria that test how well the TV runs Netflix.
- Fast app launch: Netflix should start quickly after you launch the Netflix app
- Fast app resume: Netflix should restart quickly if you wander off to something else
- Fast video playback: The video starts displaying quickly when you hit play
- Netflix button: the remote control has a Netflix button
- Easy Netflix access: the Netflix app is front and center
- TV Instant On: The TV turns on quick. Not eventually after thinking about it, but actually quick.
- Latest Netflix Version: The latest, most feature-awesome version of Netflix is on the TV
Yup. That’s it. This is something that most of us could perform in the comfort of our own homes. Netflix uses more rigorous controls and carefully times “fast”, but the essence of it is very simple.
Why Do I Care?
40% of homes have streaming video subscriptions (at least as of March), and TV manufacturers have responded by building horrible smart TV implementations. Netflix support appears like a checkbox item, and little care seems to be put into it. With this initiative, Netflix is trying to encourage smart TV manufacturers to care about the customer streaming video experience instead of throwing shoddy logos onto the box.
Anything involving fast, like instant TV on, fast app launch, fast resume, and fast playback are great ideas and I’m glad someone cares. I have 4 Netflix playing boxes around my TV, yet the Roku 3 is the only one that moves fast. If TV manufacturers drive speed improvements, all streaming services including HBO Go, Amazon Prime, and Sling TV benefit as well.
Other requirements that provide prominent Netflix placement like remote control buttons and prominent app placement are about making Netflix itself more awesome. Since they’re in 90% of streaming US homes, this helps Netflix with customer lock-in while making life easier for the customers.
As to having the latest Netflix version as of when the TV ships from the factory, that’s all well and good, but smart TVs have dodgy firmware update track records. I firmly expect that a 5 year old, perfectly functional, 1080p LED TV will not have the latest update. Shipping with the latest version is window dressing, easily met by any vendor.
What this does not do is identify good TVs. Netflix Recommended TVs could be horrendously bad TVs with poor contrast, green looking humans, and 10 Hz refresh rates, but they’ll start Netflix fast and have a button on the remote control.
A Good Start
I hand it to Netflix for attempting to improve the sorry state of smart TV software. With their commanding presence in the marketplace, I hope they do some good with their initiative.
If you’re looking for information try, the Verge had a great Netflix Recommended TV testing lab investigative report.