Like most BlackBerry PlayBook owners, I was a little shocked when Netflix announced on its Twitter account no intention of supporting BlackBerry devices, including the BlackBerry PlayBook. Despite the media attention the tweet garnered, along with the resulting petition from PlayBook users, it doesn’t seem like Netflix will be changing its mind any time soon. So what’s the deal? Considering the app can be found on practically every other platform, including handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and recently released PlayStation Vita, does Netflix simply hate BlackBerry users?
After speaking with sources familiar with the matter, it’s become clear that Netflix has no vendetta against BlackBerry. It’s simply a matter of poor timing mixed with business reality.
While traditionally Netflix has adopted an ‘on every screen’ approach to their mobile apps, I’ve been told by my sources that the company has reevaluated its position following its recent financial troubles (you know, when Netflix announced it was splitting its DVD and streaming services, saw its stock nosedive, started bleeding subscribers, and reneged on the whole thing). Netflix discovered that the majority of its mobile users were already subscribers, which means that an ‘on every screen’ approach was simply incurring additional OPEX costs without gaining new customers. While this may simply be the cost for keeping subscribers happy on high volume platforms like iOS and Android, these costs make it much more difficult for Netflix to justify additional development on low volume platforms like the BlackBerry PlayBook.
Repackaging the Netflix Android app for BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 users is sadly not a viable option due to incompatibility issues. This is apparently because the BlackBerry Android Runtime doesn’t support the requisite native libraries required to allow apps of this nature to be easily ported over. Regardless, my sources indicated that Netflix would not repackage the app even if it was possible, because the company prefers to forgo the cost of maintaining a BlackBerry application that will not add any new customers to their base. This is also why Netflix has turned down repeated offers from RIM to build the app itself.
While it’s sad that Netflix is willing to ignore the demands of PlayBook users to save on costs, it does make sense from a business perspective. Netflix can afford to ignore 6,000+ disgruntled petition signatures, because it knows that as subscribers, their money is already coming in. These subscribers are far more likely to simply give up and use Netflix on their PC or gaming system than cancel their subscription. Things could change if Netflix escapes its financial difficulties, or a vastly improved PlayBook market share forces its hand, but one of my sources put it this way: “I don’t think we see Netflix at all on PlayBook.”