Why Netflix won’t support the BlackBerry PlayBook

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.”

About the author

Douglas Soltys

Douglas is the former Editor-In-Chief of Inside BlackBerry, BlackBerry Cool, and QuicklyBored, which he launched as a mobile gaming industry site. His knowledge of mobile and social media led him to a job at RIM (BlackBerry), where he got to travel the world and do lots of cool things. He is often left-handed, but rarely sinister.

  • I cancelled my Netflix subscription after their tweet about not supporting the PlayBook. Can’t say I’ve really missed it either.

  • “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.””

    Sad way to end it. Such is life.

  • Anonymous

    Cancelled mine as well when they announced it.

  • Yeah, the bluntness of it stings. I just want to watch Breaking Bad!!

  • This doesn’t take into account the PlayBook owners that are not currently Netflix subscribers (e.g. Me) that would like to use the service, especially if the app ran on my PlayBook… where I’d like to watch my movies etc.  As for the porting of the existing app… if they have an Objective-C app I can only guess that porting to the native SDK (C/C++) for playbook would be relatively painless.

  • thats such flawed business logic though. they got to where they are BECAUSE they are on `every screen` which means they succeded because customers wanted that ability to choose any device. by now ignoring (according to gartner but it is a worldwide figure) 3 million playbook users they are ditching the formula for success they had.
    so people that had netflix because they can watch it everywhere now cant on their PlayBook so its netflix has less value to a playbook user. also they`ll never get new subs from them (box.net got over half a million from playbook) so they can only lose customers from that decision.

    bottom line, netflix warned investors 2012 will be a LOSS. poor business decisions like alienating customers is why.

  • Hi Stephen,

    Apparently they’ve run the numbers, and the potential subscriber ads from a mobile app don’t offset OPEX costs. It sounds a little strange, but it’s hard to argue if they’re seeing it in their data… It’s more important to be on laptops and the big platforms than anything else, I guess.

  • That kind of business logic is a load of bunk.  Apple must have a hold on them.  6,000+ individuals signed up (me being one of them) and a few million more customers out there  with playbooks.. and that doesn’t justify a business case for support.  I’m glad RIM has partnered up with Roxiogroup for their video store.  Good riddance netflicks!

  • It’s sad that Netflix has made this decision as I am a hug RIM supporter, with that being said this is the real life and I don’t expect the world to bend to what I want. I won’t be deleting my account just because they won’t support my PlayBook and for only one reason, there is nothing else to go to! If there was a competitor that offered what Netflix could plus supported the PlayBook then I would move because they support me. What Netflix has to do though is be careful because they just opened the door for competition to now leverage their weakness. Mind you currently there is no one else I think that is close to providing a service like Netflix but this does not mean there never will be one! Netflix, if they are smart, needs to cover the major devices out there (RIM is one of them) and if not they chose not to they are leaving themselves open to attack. Best plan in business, use your strengths to exploit another weakness. Maybe Netflix will see once a competitor is close they will armor up but until then there is no war so why spend money on defense. 

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  • Thanks for this writeup — I’ve been itching to read some good reporting on this issue, and this is the first that I’ve come across.

    While the outcome is frustrating/saddening, I have to say, I’ve never seen having Netflix on my PlayBook as being a huge value add for me personally. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d do a happy dance if it showed up, but that would be partly due to the significant symbolism of one of the biggest use cases out there landing on the platform I love)

    Let me explain why having Netflix on the PlayBook isn’t the best thing since sliced bread for me: If I want to watch a movie, I’m going to watch it on my TV, period.  I can watch Netflix on my PC, but I don’t.  And if I could watch Netflix on my PlayBook, I probably wouldn’t. Maybe once in a blue moon, I’d have a reason to do so, but I’d be shocked if > 5% of my Netflix viewing would be done on the PlayBook.

    One of the reasons I download apps is for the novelty factor.  And sure, watching Netflix on my PlayBook would have huge novelty factor — I’d download it in a heart beat.  But novelty wears off quick, so again, for me personally the joy in having Netflix on my PlayBook would be more about feeling the app love as opposed to having something I’d actually use.

    The one scenario where I could see myself watching Netflix on my PlayBook would be if I were away from home.  But in that case, I wouldn’t want to chew through my entire monthly mobile bandwidth to watch a movie.  If ten years down the road we’re getting 20 GB per month of mobile data, then ok, but not with what I have in 2012.  Even so, the number of cases where I’m away from home and would want to watch a movie on my PlayBook would be very rare.

  • All BB playbook owners that subscribe to Netflix should cancel their subscription. Hit them in the pocketbook!!

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  • TheRealApplesucksfatties2

    Personally, I’d rather see RIM throw some dough at Blockbuster/Dish Network to develop a streaming Blockbuster app for the PlayBook.. maybe include something with Dish/Slingbox.  The movie selection of Netflix sucks and I hate waiting for months to get a “new release”.    

  • I will NEVER subscribe to Netflix until they correct this wrong. Never.

  • i will cancel my netflix and i hope they go broke, may be then they will think on their clientelle

  • This is rediculous, I am hoping Netflix’s arrogance will make them lose by not supporting Blackberry devices. There’s well over 1+ million Playbooks sold and growing. Hurry up or I am going to cancel my Netflix.ca account.

  • I am hoping Netflix’s arrogance will make them lose by not supporting Blackberry devices. There’s been well over 1+ million Playbooks sold, it had a slow start, but people are now realizing it’s one of the best tablets out. Outperforms any iPad out to date.

    We need a Netflix app or I plan on cancelling my account with Netflix.

  • OpenMobile

    Now that BB World (and BB Jam) have come and gone and the BB10 development environment has been released, perhaps we’ll see Netflix port their app.

  • JosephBench

    I don’t think this article is correct.  Alec Saunders had said that if Netflix would ok it – he would have a team of blackberry developers at their door in 24 hours.
    BlackBerry has come out and said that they will create the app on their own dime – but netflix has said no.  Something else is going on.

  • 1zipit1

    Morons at Netflix won’t allow it and don’t have a good reason. I’m sure some Blackberry users already have account but a lot of them don’t. If Blackberry users want it, and RIM offered to development it for Netflix, then why not???? I suspect greedy corporations like Apple are behind this fiasco. It’s entirely possible they have a some sort of exclusive rights agreement, and also have some non-disclosure agreement so they can’t talk about it. I wouldn’t put it past them, and if I were RIM, I would investigate this matter as an anti-competitive/anti-trust issue. In the meantime, I think I’ll quit Netflix and check out Amazon Prime.

  • hs2010

    “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”

    Unfortunately for them I unsubscribed due to this. If/When they come out with an app for the Playbook or BB10, I will celebrate by subscribing to Amazon Prime as an “fu right back”

  • People still use Blackberry?

  • Andrea Heward

    I used to have an ipad and now I have a playbook. I really like the playbook much better than the ipad, its easier to handle, easier to carry around (fits nicely in my purse or even jacket pocket, it has virtually replaced my mp3 player, ipad AND camera. So, playbook is here to stay I hope netflix gets that. Maybe the UK version of netflix ilovemovies will make a playbook app 😀 they are already killing netflix in 5 european countries. 😀

  • Jaiden

    That doesn’t explain why it is Netflix blocked playbook users from streaming directly from the website. When the playbook was first released, it was possible to log onto your account direct from the Site. Crackberry.com posted video on their site of the playbook streaming video direct from the Netflix website. A few days later, Netflix blocked playbook users from streaming video from the Site. Why?

  • Does the ‘poor business timing’ explanation still fly? e.g. Has Netflix stopped any other new tablet system (since playbook came out) from receiving streaming video?

  • Kent F.

    I’ll probably cancel my subscription now as well. Yes, I have it on plenty of devices already, not all of which are as portable as the PlayBook or (even more so) the new Z10.

    Although it has recently been demonstrated that there aren’t so many compatibility problems after all (the Android app ports to the new BB10 OS on BlackBerry Z10 phones just fine), seems Netflix still isn’t budging. Maybe that will change.

    What sort of ‘support’ has Netflix ever offered anyone anyway? They’re more of a complaint-gathering service. They wouldn’t have to support it any more than they do on Android, being virtually identical code.

    While Netflix could have simply solved the ‘multiple mobile platforms’ problem by developing for a modern web browser, they seem to have chosen to develop independently for different platforms, probably with their hands holding Apple’s pocket all the way. It makes no sense that I have to sit in front of a PC or a Mac to be able to watch Netflix in my ‘browser’, while kids with a Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita can watch Netflix from those devices! (Oh, ok, hand in Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s pockets as well.)

    Well, they can soon take their hand out of my pocket too.

  • Ray

    well they lost any chance of me subscribing to netflix. when im home i watch movies in superior blu ray quality on my hdtv without having to even think about or worry about stupid internet connection. when im on the road i would much rather take my playbook than my laptop because of convenience. i will probably never subscribe to netflix because physical is better than non physical in every way, not only in quality and price but also pros and convenience for consumers, but the only chance they had was if netflix came to blackberry.

  • Sargonarhes

    Well, my days with Netflix are numbered any ways. Running out of stuff to watch. My interests are specific and Netflix isn’t doing enough to keep me for very long.

  • Dave

    Boycott Netflix.

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